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The Chavez Legacy in Venezuela
|by Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee|
Hugo Rafael Chavez . A great name in Venezuela, but a greater name in the world outside. He showed the guts to refuse America a single drop of Oil from Venezuela which according to America has the world’s largest oil reserves at 1.36 trillion barrels. In the open forum of UNO, Chavez could call George Bush ‘Satan’. He never felt illusioned about the American dole outs and punishments. He wanted the IMF and the World Bank to disappear.
These are enough to infuriate America and many others in Europe who consistently tried for establishing regional hegemony in Latin American Countries. The long 14 years, Chavez who started to build the first truly independent South America emerged as a cult figure in the Latin American countries and his ideas a myth for the people. But Chavez is no more. He died at 58 yesterday although he had been suffering from cancer since 2011. Last on December 8, he informed the countrymen of another surgical operation, On Februrary 18, he was brought back from Cuba to Karakas. Chavez really changed the country after the massive victory in the General Election in 1998. Mummar Gaddafi was the friend of Chavez. He controlled everything in his country and checked America. The Chavez regime did a lot to improve the lives of many of the country’s poor.
Hugo Chavez was an autocratic socialist in the eyes of America. He used oil money to corrupt a political system through bribery and brute force. He tried to overthrow a democratically elected government of Carlos Andres Perez in 1992. But in spite of all these allegations and accusations against him, Hugo was loved by the poor people. The Opposition was able to target him for many loopholes and shortcomings: from runaway violent crime to corruption, lack of delivery and economic diversification, and over-dependence on one man’s charismatic leadership. But he remained the leader of the Have-nots. America says that Venezuala is free after the death of Chavez. But again it was Chavez who could appeal to the heart of the poor people of his country. Chavez sent heating oil to the state of Maine to help with the low- income families that were not being served due to budget cuts.
He was a gifted orator and he showed political courage with conviction. His school teacher parents however sent him to school for military arts and he became an officer in a para trooper unit. In the 1980s he joined Politics by founding a secret organization. Simon Bolivar was his inspiration and he renamed the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement later as Movement of the Fifth Republic which later merged with other political parties of the country to form United Socialist Party of Venezuela or PSUV. He had tried to initiate a form of 21st century socialism partly derived from the work of Heinz Dieterich Steffan. For Mr. Chávez, ethics, morality, cooperativism, and associationism make for strong public economic activity and in turn protect the equality which is essential to liberty. The Venezuelan electorate has repeatedly endorsed this. Chavez remained their leader for more than a decade. He rejected western neoliberal orthodoxy and challenged imperial domination.
The social programmes of Chavez reduced poverty from 71 per cent in 1996 to 21 now. The social programmes reached 20 million people and 2.1 million have received senior citizen’s pensions , a sevenfold increase under Chavez. Chavez brand of socialism ensured the cut in food imports from 90 per cent to 30 per cent. As many as 96 per cent of the population now have access to clean water and 85 per cent children go to school. All these are done with money from oil royalties.
Why is America infuriated? America favoured the elite whites and its own domination over Venezuela is lost for the last 14 years. America argued in favour of democracy and tried to malign Chavez as a dictator. Unlike Saudi Arabia which buys U.S. treasury bills and other assets, Chavez kept oil revenues within Latin America. This is one of the main reasons enough for infuriating America.
Chavez successfully combated the regional hegemony of the US over the Latin American countries. The sovereignty of Latin America was his priority. The Chavez victory consists in the transformation of Latin America It has brought a string of elected socialist and social democratic governments to office which have redistributed wealth and power. It was Chavez who made the people dream of real economic and social alternative to slavery of American Capitalism. He never felt tempted by the huge prosperity of America. With his humble fortune of his own country Chavez was happy. Bolivar inspired Chavez and probably Chavez knew the lines of Bolivar :
“Happy is he who is satisfied with his humble fortune.
Free of the proud yoke to which I am bound,
He lives in the obscurity in which Heaven has hidden him.
Blessed is he who is content with his humble fortune.”
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