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Ten Years of Hugo Chavez: Does He Deserve His Own Holiday?

Ten Years of Hugo Chavez: Does He Deserve His Own Holiday?

February 2nd was declared a national holiday in Venezuela to commemorate the tenth anniversary of President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration and his Bolivarian Revolution, where he has promoted social programs and Latin American solidarity, while denouncing neoliberalism and corruption.

As he declared the national holiday, Chavez wrote, “We have done in ten years what couldn’t be done in a century.”

What exactly has been done? Has he been good for the country?

It depends who you ask–Chavez is a polarizing figure. Some citizens support him for his investments to help the poor, while others feel he is authoritarian and hungry for power. (Check out the BBC’s video featuring two Venezuelans with very distinct views on Chavez.)

Chavez’s social programs, which have promoted things such as literacy, housing and health care, have helped him gain strong support among the poor, and voting turnout has greatly increased. One project that caught my eye, as reported by the BBC, was a network of cable cars in Caracas to connect the shantytowns in the hills to the center of the city in order to facilitate the poor’s access to jobs. In a region where there are sharp distinctions between classes, this seems like a great step in the right direction.

But while he has established public programs, private institutions such as schools, hospitals, clinics and banks were forced to close or face steep fines, presumably to eliminate competition. Services for the poor should enrich society, not come at the expense of others!

In addition, the public programs rely on Venezuela’s oil industry, the main source of revenue for the nation. Critics contend that such a heavy reliance is an unstable way to help society, but in a 2006 interview with The Progressive, Chavez retorted, “We are today…using oil wealth so Venezuela can become an agricultural country, a tourist destination, an industrialized nation with a diversified economy…One day we won’t have any more oil, but that will be in the 22nd century.”

Chavez has been accused of human rights abuses, and even expelled Human Rights Watch in September 2008. Media outlets have accused him of intimidation and censorship, while he has accused them of catering to the elite. Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders ranked Venezuela 113 out of 168 countries in its 2008 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

As much as Chavez has done for the poor, I cannot support his power trip. He may think he knows what’s best for the country, but there needs to be a free exchange of ideas, even if some are representative of the elite. And while Chavez has enjoyed high approval ratings, winning the last election with 60 percent of the vote, I can’t help wonder, if he has control of the media, how fair is the election?

On Feb. 15, Venezuelans will vote on whether to abolish term limits for a President. Incidentally Chavez told CNN that if the amendment fails to pass, he could always try to put it on the ballet again in the future.

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11 comments

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7:54AM PST on Feb 26, 2009

"Chavez is highly respected in Venezuela and Latin America " Hahahahaha SURE!!
Who think this, somebody who never has put a feet on any of these countries, obviusly...

I repeat one more time: If U.S people (United States people, because "America" is the name of the entire continent, not only your country, and ALL of us who born in this continent, we ALL are americans..); if U.S people are awaiking and don´t like what they see, if they are not happy with themselfs or with their society, then fix it! Fix yourself like a person, fix your way of life, grow up as an individual; Chavez is not, and never will be the answer to your "American problems".

Great, he is destroying my country, my people, steling my money and beeing represive, and you "great and first world people" are supporting him just because you are not happy with yourselfs and your country!!!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! (like always)

10:08AM PST on Feb 15, 2009

An horrific dictator! Are you kidding me?

3:31PM PST on Feb 8, 2009

Chavez, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Castro.
Six degrees of separation.

5:42PM PST on Feb 6, 2009

Chavez is highly respected in Venezuela and Latin America and has done a lot to improve the lives of the poor. Like Fidel Castro, he has done so through authoritarian methods, and he is convinced of his own infalibility.

10:24AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

I really have to agree with Monica Baker and jean m. If one travels extensively in the US out lands the incredible gap between the top, middle and voiceless bottom class gives on the feeling they are travelling through many different countires...the third and fourth world classes are already in America. What is being done about that before disparaging remarks are shot at countries where the Western world has no business...including the totally biased media of the supposedly 'free world'.

To draw a likeness to the world of Lenin or Hitler is to obviously not understand oppression. And as for high crime...what are the statistics for the urban jungles of America. Seems like any country that stands up to 'Big Brother' America is considered roguish. Why...because they don't want to be Americans or American lackeys and, maybe, just maybe they don't like apple pie.

It is great to 'soap box' a safe distance from the target but the Western implementation of democracy and capitalism is dependent on exploiting and even instigating chaos.

What is the old adage...clean your own yard before you try to clean your neighbor's. America, geographically speaking, just needs to grow up...it has only very recently, in historical time, that the Americas were violently converted to Western ideology. There are many cultures and nations, globally, much more mature and much older than Western societies.

This post should make my ideas popular and prove my points....

2:48AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

The saying that "Power corrupts" is probably born out here. No doubt Chavez started out with good intentions but now seems to think he is the reincarnation of a Maya or Inca emperor and is beyond the reach of mere mortals.

1:54AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

PS: And if you don't know, the holyday that he improvise last February the 4th was remembering the coup d'état he made on the 90's (a failed one, I should say) when a lot of people died by his foult.
He don't remembered the inocent people who died that day, he celebrates his own staring.

Sorry for my english, I'm from Venezuela and my native language is the spanish..

1:30AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

Yea sure, "The improvement of the poor people life"
Do you really know what you are talking about??
30% increasing PER MONTH on the food and medicine prices and 35 violent murders PER WEEKEND is obviously an improvement..
Do you know that Venezuela don't have public educatior or Social Security? That the regular payment on a job is 650Bsf and the lowest rent cost 5000Bsf? Than the basic food per month cost 2000Bsf?
If you can live like that, receiving 650Bsf per month and paying 9000Bsf on rent, food, school and privite security (only, not including your car or transportation, cloth or anything else); if you really think that you can live like that, go to Venezuela, support Chavez and live there with him.
Not every enemy of Bush is your friend..

12:31AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

The lives of the poor are improving, not many western countries can say the same can they?

6:56PM PST on Feb 5, 2009

With all due respect, he is the same caliber as Lenin and Hitler. They were elected and then bestowed on themselves eternal powers...In the same manner they took aim at the one who had, stole it and gave it to the poor to perrenize themselves in the Power, because the masses will always vote for a demagogue.

He is behaving like LOUIS XIV:"THE STATE IS ME".

One has to be quite an infatuated arrogant to designate such a National Holiday.

Go and visit Venezuela to see for your own eyes the kind of corrupt society they live in riddled with crime and abuses of all sorts and with little means of freely expressing yourself.

Travel a bit and you will see what a totalitarian state it is.

Roger Bertrand

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