Hugo Chavez: the revolutionary's final battle
March 5, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Hugo Chavez dies. Al-Jazeera reported it first on their live stream, while internal media are still holding back. The Vice President, Nicolas Maduro, made the announcement.
posted by moonbird (283 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Wordshore at 2:09 PM on March 5, 2013


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posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:09 PM on March 5, 2013


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posted by SollosQ at 2:10 PM on March 5, 2013


One of the best leaders South America has known.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I always respected Hugo Chavez. Don't know much about the reality of his leadership, but it always seemed his heart was in the right place. He helped raise a lot of people out of poverty, and really had a strong vision of what his country could be.

As far as I could tell, he was less interested in being a Powerful World Leader, than he was in being a great Venezuelan. And he spoke truth to power in a way that was fearless.

Godspeed.

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posted by nickrussell at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


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posted by trip and a half at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2013


Has he? It isn't clear from the links.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2013


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posted by shakespeherian at 2:12 PM on March 5, 2013


AJE's report. NPR just reported.
posted by moonbird at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2013


Um, what? Absent maybe Cincinnatus, there are no good dictators. I don't care what his politics are, he stole a country and then muzzled the independent media. I'll save my mourning for someone who deserves it.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2013 [93 favorites]


CNN, Reuters and BBC have all reported, so yes.
posted by Wordshore at 2:14 PM on March 5, 2013




Good riddance; one less bloviating, thuggish, censorious asshat feted by legions of naive, easily led foreign admirers who wouldn't for one second consider living under his ideal system
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [48 favorites]


*Rolls eyes*

Yeah, somebody who won four elections with a huge majority is a dictator.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Good riddance.
posted by novalis_dt at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, it amazes me that people can actually admire Chavez and say that publicly. Do you know any Venezuelans, por supuesto?
posted by msali at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I do not take joy in the death of others. But, I bet there are a whole lot of people celebrating in Miami right now. Hopefully, Venezuela can find a new way forward.
posted by Leezie at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2013


Yeah, somebody who won four elections with a huge majority

That's really how you choose to describe it?

I think Saddam Hussein had a 99% majority, right?
posted by xmutex at 2:16 PM on March 5, 2013 [40 favorites]


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But Chavez' commitment to social justice shouldn't obscure the deeply problematic aspects of his rule, not the least of which was his mismanagement of the state oil company.

On preview: And intimidation of his political opponents, too, yes.
posted by Cash4Lead at 2:16 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


There will be very many more Venezuelans mourning today, the majority in fact, those who weren't part of the corrupt middle classes, who under Chavez gotten proper health care, education and an actual stake in the country, rather than having to make do with the scraps the elites let them.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


All of which is par for the course for South American strongmen. What he did differently, though, was lift a lot of people out of poverty.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Yeah, somebody who won four elections with a huge majority is a dictator."

LOL wut

Look, it's obnoxious to see both hagiography and opprobrium here — Hugo Chavez's rule and legacy are deeply complicated and mixed. He did some great things for Venezuela, but he also hung on too long and used some really reprehensible means to maintain power.

The best comparisons to Chavez are Castro and Perez Musharaf, and neither of them deserves unmitigated praise nor condemnation.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [51 favorites]


I think Saddam Hussein had a 99% majority, right?

So I guess you have some proof these elections were fixed, right?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine who lives in Delaware, my home state, just pointed out that through Citgo he made natural gas available to low-income families at greatly reduced cost. I remember talk around such initiatives, but I had no idea he/Venezuelan officials actually did it.
posted by moonbird at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Chavez was Chavez. Now a historical figure. But I wonder if his image won't change in the next while. His insistance on the rights of poor people, and his abhorrence of the sense of entitlement of the rich have both since become rather more popular themes. If they continue to capture our attention, as seems likely, I would expect Chavez's status to rise. Buy.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry to be so snarky, but I am absolutely stunned that there could be any meaningful support for this man, and to find it here is, well, stunning. I'm won't be grave dancing, in fact, the most meaningful thing to me right now is that Castro has outlived them all.
posted by msali at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


As he was on his deathbed, a priest approached Hugo Chavez for the last rites. Chavez sits up because he's not ready for it "Get out of here, not right now"

"No, Ugo" the priest wheezes.

"No, you go" Chavez says.

"No Ugo" the priest says again, crossly.

"Fine, I'll go!" Chavez shouts, leans back, and closes his eyes, he exhales his last breath.
posted by hellojed at 2:23 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


not surprised; their denials that he was failing were laughable, since they'd be followed by another trip to Cuba for hospitilazation
posted by thelonius at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So I guess you have some proof these elections were fixed, right?"

Uh, there were serious anomolies in 2004 and after that, Chavez kicked out international observers.

Chavez was, by and large, better than his opposition, but that doesn't mean he was a great guy in general.
posted by klangklangston at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sorry to be so snarky, but I am absolutely stunned that there could be any meaningful support for this man,

People love him here because he called George W bush the Devil and noted the lingering scent of sulfur. Thats about it.
posted by xmutex at 2:25 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is going to be bad for the poor, I'm thinking.
posted by nevercalm at 2:26 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


He was a terrible flawed man that became a dictator who did his people great harm by desensitizing them to the brutish ways of a dictatorship by giving to the poor what they could have received through democratic means like so many other people before them.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:27 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


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posted by pompomtom at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2013


but I am absolutely stunned that there could be any meaningful support for this man

Well, yeah, but you're not sitting in a slum somewhere in Venezuela, now are you. What did Chavez ever do for you if you were?

Land reform, increasing health care, increasing education, nationalising the oil companies, cracking down on corruption, redistribution of wealth, standing up to the US, forging allies with other South American countries against US imperialism, etc. etc.

All of which is hard to realise if you read only about Chavez when he's palling around with Castro or something and of course once he actually survived that US backed, CIA led coup, he became an arch enemy of the western world, an eeeeeeeeevil monster on the par of a Hussein (as seen in this very thread!) regardless of anything he actually did.

Democrat or Republican, right or left wing, we can't have uppity southern leaders standing up to America, can we?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:29 PM on March 5, 2013 [49 favorites]


¿Por qué no te callas?
posted by jquinby at 2:29 PM on March 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


So what are the odds of a tiny bit of polonium-210 being involved in his illness?
posted by mullingitover at 2:30 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


He was an unrepentant supporter of the Iranian regime's violence against its own people.
posted by Anything at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tagging Chavez as a "dictator" is a handy way of identifying people who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.
posted by RogerB at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Although it has its flaws, the documentary that happened to be in the making during the failed coup is quite interesting. And yeah. He was complicated, good in some ways and bad in others. As are we all.

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posted by Lemurrhea at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


From a library and literacy point of view, he was somewhat contradictory.

Hugo!: The Hugo Chávez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution:

Books were hard to come by in Venezuela - they were expensive, and public libraries were scarce. So Chavez instructed the government to print some and hand them out for free. On the four hundredth anniversary of the classic tale Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, he ordered up to one million copies. He also distributed five hundred thousand copies of another personal favorite, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

The Miami Herald, 2009:

Chávez's efforts to obtain absolute control has reached into the public library system.

The purged books -- including the works of authors such as Arturo Uslar Pietri of Venezuela, Antoine de Saint-Exupery of France and Alfred Hitchcock of England, all of whom wrote about the values of capitalism and a consumer society -- were turned into pulp or incinerated over the past two years.

According to authorities, the books were destroyed because they were in poor condition or outdated.

But Miriam Hermoso, the current director of the Autonomous Library Institute of Miranda that headed up an investigation into the matter, said the destroyed works had been selected for ''ideological'' reasons.

Teens in Venezuela:

A system of nearly 700 public libraries offers access to books, computers, and the Internet ... Government programs under President Hugo Chavez have helped to decrease illiteracy throughout the country.
posted by Wordshore at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, yeah, but you're not sitting in a slum somewhere in Venezuela, now are you. What did Chavez ever do for you if you were?


Dude, have you ever SEEN a Venezuelan slum? Same as the old Venezuelan slum, but bigger.
posted by msali at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, it amazes me that people can actually admire Chavez and say that publicly. Do you know any Venezuelans, por supuesto?

Forgive me - this has nothing to do with anything - but what do you mean by this use of "por supuesto," which the RAE defines as "ciertamente"?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:34 PM on March 5, 2013


Demagoguery, populist rhetoric and the silencing of the dissent are par for the course among Latin strongmen. Not sure how anyone could think he's one of South America's finest leaders.
posted by spaltavian at 2:34 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


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posted by stoneweaver at 2:34 PM on March 5, 2013


I have to admit, I always got a smile when certain conservative publications reliably pulled out a Chavez item when the current news cycle wasn't going their way. Forever trying to make him into a South American Mao, when he was more a small time thug, and not very notable among the cast of characters who've had their turn.

Still, he was a thug who had no interest in actually expanding prosperity, so much as taking from his opponents, and espousing some pretty fucked up ideas.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:34 PM on March 5, 2013


He was an unrepentant supporter of the Iranian regime's violence against its own people.

When a dubious person gives out candy, people will pay a lot more attention to the sweetness to come than from the hand that gives it. The fact that he gave away so much obscured his worldview.
posted by moonbird at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by dunkadunc at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2013


"Land reform, increasing health care, increasing education, nationalising the oil companies, cracking down on corruption, redistribution of wealth, standing up to the US, forging allies with other South American countries against US imperialism, etc. etc."

Yup, while simultaneously enabling his own coterie's corruption, mismanaging state agencies, choosing drug traffickers over indigenous people, restricting press and association rights, and endorsing some pretty shitty regimes throughout the world.

"All of which is hard to realise if you read only about Chavez when he's palling around with Castro or something and of course once he actually survived that US backed, CIA led coup, he became an arch enemy of the western world, an eeeeeeeeevil monster on the par of a Hussein (as seen in this very thread!) regardless of anything he actually did.

Democrat or Republican, right or left wing, we can't have uppity southern leaders standing up to America, can we?
"

Look, man, I know you want this to be some sort of "Anyone who is critical of Chavez is an American imperialist lapdog," but it's leading you to toss out all sorts of bullshit and to treat Chavez like some leftist Reagan. The dude was a strongman leader of a South American country who was more progressive than a lot of other strongmen, but still not an unalloyed positive even for the poor in his country.

So maybe lay off with the "uppity" bullshit and stop acting like Chavez left a bequest to fund you defending him on MeFi.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on March 5, 2013 [48 favorites]


So what are the odds of a tiny bit of polonium-210 being involved in his illness?

A lot lower than the probability he died during his surgery months ago.
posted by xmutex at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hugo Chavez: Distinctly Less Awful than Most Other Dictators.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Here is a fantastic article by Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker about the current state of affairs in Caracas.
posted by msali at 2:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


And one of the things about somebody like Chavez is that it's hard to get a proper picture of him and his government, how well it's doing or not if you rely on the normal American or European media sources.

For a start there's of course the usual handicap of not actually paying much attention to Venezuela unless it involves the US or something the US cares about. Our image of Chavez is coloured by how we only hear about them in the context of his and our foreign policy.

Then there's the simple fact that all news sources, whether nominally left or right wing look at the world from an American/European, mainly neoliberal perspective, where if a water comapnyt in Boliva gets nationalised the big news is not that millions of people will get cheaper drinking water, but rather that a French company will lose points on the stock market.

Finally, there's just the outright propaganda that gets spewed into the public discourse, both from his political opponents (including the various coupists) in Venezuela, as well as those abroad who dislike him; America under Obama not being much more friendly than it was under Bush.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:39 PM on March 5, 2013 [20 favorites]


"Still, he was a thug who had no interest in actually expanding prosperity, so much as taking from his opponents, and espousing some pretty fucked up ideas."

That's bullshit too. Chavez came out of a class of young liberal army officers — much like Musharraf — and used his power to expand access to property and to give the public better benefits from natural resources. Describing him as a thug just shows that you don't know what you're talking about and that you're an anti-socialist partisan first, and an independent thinker last if at all.
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on March 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


Man, what people are willing to forgive if you call George W. Bush an asshole.
posted by spaltavian at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Aw, shoot, one less person that they tell me I'm supposed to hate.
posted by The Giant Squid at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


So maybe lay off with the "uppity" bullshit and stop acting like Chavez left a bequest to fund you defending him on MeFi.

When you got people comparing him to Hussein? Expressing glee in his death? Buying into all the standard propaganda about him?

Ehh.

Metafilter: not as liberal as it protests to be, not when it comes to foreign leftists anyway.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Chavez didn't lift anyone out of poverty or anything else. The poor got poorer. Health care, housing, education, housing -- all suffered hugely under Chavez. What the poor got a lot of was ideological lecturing.
posted by Fnarf at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2013


Cite? ^
posted by stenseng at 2:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's what my one Venezuelan Facebook friend has to say (translated):

"What pain. My president, you will always be the precursor of this Revolution. Your ideas stay and they will create the country that you dreamed."
posted by A Bad Catholic at 2:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


And one of the things about somebody like Chavez is that it's hard to get a proper picture of him and his government, how well it's doing or not if you rely on the normal American or European media sources.

Boy that's a great point. What do you rely on, then, to arrive at such confident conclusions?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:42 PM on March 5, 2013


Seems like Venezuela's GDP certainly didn't suffer under his watch.
posted by mullingitover at 2:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


People love him here because he called George W bush the Devil

Hm. I see Chavez as a necessary transitional figure from the period of hyperactive US tinkering in Latin America to the present day. He wasn't as effective as Lula or even someone like Evo Morales, but in the context of his early political career and the coup to oust him, that was probably unavoidable; it's not paranoia if there are actually people out to get you, and paranoia tempers reformism.

The English-language press will probably find it easiest to interview the English-speaking designer-gear-wearing inhabitants of the tonier parts of Caracas. As always.

I'm won't be grave dancing, in fact, the most meaningful thing to me right now is that Castro has outlived them all.

I've always seen Castro as a kind of 20th-century Garibaldi. And whatever you think about the Cuban regime -- and there's an awful lot of shit to despise about it -- the transition has spoilt the party for the reactionaries in certain parts of Miami who've spent decades dreaming of a glorious return to ship all those '57 Cadillacs to the US.
posted by holgate at 2:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


"When you got people comparing him to Hussein? Expressing glee in his death? Buying into all the standard propaganda about him?

Ehh.

Metafilter: not as liberal as it protests to be, not when it comes to foreign leftists anyway.
"

Dude, the Saddam thing was your fault. When you hold up a dictator's re-election as evidence of his popularity, uh, duh, people are going to point out Saddam.

And part of the problem is that Chavez wasn't as liberal as you protest him to be. Like I said, deeply mixed legacy.
posted by klangklangston at 2:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


[I know the guy was a pretty complicated figure and people have all sorts of reasons they might like or dislike him, but maybe try and be a little more on the cool-and-substantial side in here? Less with the hyberbole and crying bullshit, more with the constructive conversation or getting out the way of same.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:43 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Finally, there's just the outright propaganda that gets spewed into the public discourse, both from his political opponents (including the various coupists) in Venezuela, as well as those abroad who dislike him; America under Obama not being much more friendly than it was under Bush.

Are you so sure that your sources are not simply biased in the opposite direction? It's possible for both sides to spout propaganda. Chavez is the kind of guy who gave plenty of ammunition to both sides.
posted by Edgewise at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hm. I see Chavez as a necessary transitional figure from the period of hyperactive US tinkering in Latin America to the present day. He wasn't as effective as Lula or even someone like Evo Morales, but in the context of his early political career and the coup to oust him, that was probably unavoidable; it's not paranoia if there are actually people out to get you, and paranoia tempers reformism."

That's a pretty fair point, but even Lula and Morales haven't been as effective as they've been made out to be. Morales has the best shot, in part because Bolivia's so damn poor that nobody cares enough to fuck with him.

But from friends who are both left and local to South America, all of these folks get similar reactions to what Obama gets here: They do some good, but when you look at them, they still support a lot of bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 2:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chavez didn't lift anyone out of poverty or anything else. The poor got poorer. Health care, housing, education, housing -- all suffered hugely under Chavez. What the poor got a lot of was ideological lecturing.
posted by Fnarf at 2:40 PM on March 5 [+] [!]


I dunno about that. The Center for Economic & Policy Research found that:

"During the current economic expansion, the poverty rate has been cut by more than half, from 54 percent of households in the first half of 2003 to 26 percent at the end of 2008.

Extreme poverty has fallen even more, by 72 percent. These poverty rates measure only cash income, and do not take into account increased access to health care or education.

Over the entire decade, the percentage of households in poverty has been reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half.

Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has also fallen substantially. The index has fallen to 41 in 2008, from 48.1 in 2003 and 47 in 1999. This represents a large reduction in inequality.

From 1998-2006, infant mortality has fallen by more than one-third. The number of primary care physicians in the public sector increased 12-fold from 1999-2007, providing health care to millions of Venezuelans who previously did not have access.

There have been substantial gains in education, especially higher education, where gross enrollment rates more than doubled from 1999-2000 to 2007-2008.

The labor market also improved substantially over the last decade, with unemployment dropping from 11.3 percent to 7.8 percent. During the current expansion it has fallen by more than half. Other labor market indicators also show substantial gains.

Over the past decade, the number of social security beneficiaries has more than doubled.

Over the decade, the government’s total public debt has fallen from 30.7 to 14.3 percent of GDP. The foreign public debt has fallen even more, from 25.6 to 9.8 percent of GDP."
posted by SollosQ at 2:46 PM on March 5, 2013 [55 favorites]


Read the Human Rights Watch report. A judge arrested for ruling the wrong way. Criminalizing speech that was disrespectful of top government officials. Requiring domestic channels to broadcast his speeches. Prosecuting the head of a television channel for disseminating false information, offense and insulting the President.

You don't have to be a shill for U.S. foreign policy to find him a problematic figure. Also, the global oil price deserves as much credit for the GDP in Venezuela as Chavez.
posted by Area Man at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Man, what people are willing to forgive if you call George W. Bush an asshole.
posted by spaltavian at 2:40 PM on March 5 [2 favorites +] [!]

Call me crazy, but I don't think George Bush was an asshole, nor Chavez some thug.
posted by SollosQ at 2:48 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


He was also responsible for a huge surge in state-sponsored anti-semitism. No tears here.
posted by Mchelly at 2:48 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


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posted by univac at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2013


When you hold up a dictator's re-election as evidence of his popularity, uh, duh, people are going to point out Saddam.

Dude, here's a report from someone who served as an election observer for the opposition in Venezuela.

Get a friend to help you when you're out shopping for fruit.
posted by holgate at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The best comparisons to Chavez are Castro and Perez Musharaf

I know, Perez Musharaf blogged way too long.

Benazir! Benazir! Hi, yes, it's me, Perez. Oh, that's a nice gold necklace you're wearing! Are you taking that with you on the plane? You're going to Dubai, right? Benazir! Don't be that way!
posted by dhartung at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Are you so sure that your sources are not simply biased in the opposite direction?

Naah, that's just the usual "both sides are equally biased and the truth is always exactly in the middle" objective journalism tripe. You wouldn't say that about e.g. abortion or gay marriage so why believe that here?

All sources are of course biased, but some are less reliable than others and the problem with many of the mainstream news sources (NYT, Guardian as much as the Washington Post or the Times) is that they hide their biases under a veneer of objectivity and he said, she said reporting.

Read the Socialist Worker on the other hand and the bias is noticable from page one, but you can read it with that bias in mind.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


SollosQ: "Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has also fallen substantially. The index has fallen to 41 in 2008, from 48.1 in 2003 and 47 in 1999. This represents a large reduction in inequality."

Combine that with the aforementioned GDP growth and you start seeing that the poor made out pretty damn well under Chavez. Venezuela (GINI index: 39 in 2011) beats the crap out of every state in the US for distribution of wealth. That rising tide actually did lift all boats, as evidenced by the corresponding GINI index drop.
posted by mullingitover at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


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posted by lalochezia at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2013


Hugo Chavez: the dictator who kept winning elections and squandered his country's oil wealth on schools, health care, agriculture and child care. Courage, mes frères. Le diable est mort!

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posted by Catchfire at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2013 [31 favorites]


--
posted by lampshade at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2013


. o .

Neither as terrible as they say or as great as they say. He gets no dot from me.
posted by Atreides at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"...where if a water comapnyt in Boliva gets nationalised the big news is not that millions of people will get cheaper drinking water, but rather that a French company will lose points on the stock market."

This is a really aggressive framing of what people were talking about then, it was big news that water would be cheaper and it was big news that Bolivia would suddenly be cut off from the foreign capital necessary to build nice things like potable water and left to fend for itself having convinced a French company to invest a bunch of money before then telling them to fuck off.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Dude, here's a report from someone who served as an election observer for the opposition in Venezuela.

Get a friend to help you when you're out shopping for fruit.
"

Dude, get a friend to help you read the links when you post them: "Moreover, Chavez illegally mobilized government resources against his opponent, including the use of government controlled media and communications “chains” that force private stations to broadcast government announcements."

In it he also alleges that Chavez supporters were threatened with losing government benefits — which would fit in with the general clientelism that animates too much of the Latin American political experience.
posted by klangklangston at 2:57 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


All the investment they did was pay the ridiculous low price the then Bolivian government asked for the water company, then they hiked prices.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:58 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


cite?

"What Chávez had done, in essence, was to replace existing state programs with his own “revolutionary” programs, staffed by volunteers and visiting Cuban professionals, and with an ideological, rather than an economic or social, mission. The largest sum of money was spent subsidizing consumption, which did not change the underlying conditions and often replaced programs that might have done so. As a result, rather than improving life, these programs actually caused a sharp decrease in the material conditions of the rural-migrant poor. Between 1999 and 2006, the proportion of Venezuelan families living on dirt floors almost tripled, from 2.5 percent to 6.8 percent; the percentage with no access to running water rose from 7.2 to 9.4 percent; the percentage of underweight babies rose from 8.4 percent to 9.1 percent.24 Despite the rhetoric, Chávez decreased the proportion of public spending on health, education, and housing compared with the years leading up to his attempted coup. Most tellingly, social inequality actually increased during the years of the revolution, according to the regime’s own estimates.

Saunders, Doug (2011-03-22). Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World (p. 216). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

The footnote is from Francisco Rodríguez, “An Empty Revolution: The Unfulfilled Promises of Hugo Chávez,” Foreign Affairs (Mar./Apr. 2008). The inequality measure is the Gini Coefficient, cited by the Venezuelan Central Bank.
posted by Fnarf at 2:59 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


On Chavez's economic legacy, by Mark Weisbrot in The Guardian (Oct. 2012):

Since 2004, when the government gained control over the oil industry and the economy had recovered from the devastating, extra-legal attempts to overthrow it (including the 2002 US-backed military coup and oil strike of 2002-2003), poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%. And this measures only cash income. Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrollment has doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality has also been considerably reduced. By contrast, the two decades that preceded Chávez amount to one of the worst economic failures in Latin America, with real income per person actually falling by 14% between 1980 and 1998.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:00 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


squandered his country's oil wealth on schools, health care, agriculture and child care

As cited above, Chavez's regime REDUCED the proportion of public spending on those things.
posted by Fnarf at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the U.S. running out of foreign policy bogeymen?
posted by Apocryphon at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's bullshit too. Chavez came out of a class of young liberal army officers — much like Musharraf — and used his power to expand access to property and to give the public better benefits from natural resources. Describing him as a thug just shows that you don't know what you're talking about and that you're an anti-socialist partisan first, and an independent thinker last if at all.

No, he was a thug. There is really no way a first worlder like me can honestly say otherwise. But as I said, he wasn't particularly notable in that regard. He came across as an oddly illiberal person, for whatever good that came out of it. My biggest amusement was that he was the monster for the American Right that never was.

You're trying to carve some kind of middle way here that I'm not disagreeing with. The ad hom attack on me is not appreciated.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I consider Chávez much like Wilhelm Reich: While both were undoubtedly the victims of illegal and immoral actions of the US government, they were also both cranks.
posted by dhens at 3:03 PM on March 5, 2013


The ad hominem isn't appreciate by someone dismissing Chavez as a thug?

o_0
posted by klangklangston at 3:04 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


...came out of a class of young liberal army officers ... and used his power to expand access to property and to give the public better benefits from natural resources.

Whoa, you can totally use this description to create the leftist equivalent of Godwinning. "You know who else came out of a class of young liberal army officers?"
posted by Apocryphon at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2013


Chavez's Caracas today. Worker's paradise, yah.
posted by Fnarf at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2013


Fnarf -

Between 1999 and 2006, the proportion of Venezuelan families living on dirt floors almost tripled, from 2.5 percent to 6.8 percent;

2006 isn't a good bookend for judging Chavez's record. Venezuela's economy hit rock bottom in 2004 with coup-related instability and took several years to crawl out of the hole. But in the last 6 yrs. under Chavez it's had very solid growth and more than made up for the lost ground your stat reflects.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


: "I consider Chávez much like Wilhelm Reich: While both were undoubtedly the victims of illegal and immoral actions of the US government, they were also both cranks."

You'll have to pry my orgone accumulator from my cold, dead hands.
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


This thread should be Exhibit A the next time someone claims there is a left-of-center political consensus on MetaFilter.
posted by RogerB at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


Just wait 'til Putin kicks! You ain't seen nothing yet.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 3:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


made up for the lost ground

Hmm. The bottom on your chart is 2003, not 2006, and while GDP is indeed a little bit higher now than in 2006, it's not really "solid" since then, is it? Not with that big dip in 2010-11. I'm going to guess that your chart is pretty much identical to a chart of the world petroleum price.

I'm not sure that GDP is the best indicator of what's going on in a state like Venezuela. Yes, we all know that the oil money is pouring in. But where's it going? My Venezuelan friend tells me the country is on the verge of collapse; Caracas is a total basketcase.
posted by Fnarf at 3:13 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just wait 'til Putin kicks! You ain't seen nothing yet.

Yeah, right. Like Putin's ever going to die.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


.
Americans really do get histrionic over Chavez. His accomplishments under the threat of constant US harassment to promote an alternative to IMF neoliberalism were admirable. There are many other oil rich dictators under our payroll who are much more reprehensible. A great yet complex man.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


RogerB, klangklangston, Catchfire, and others: What is your response to the Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela linked to above by Area Man?
posted by dhens at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of the hatred toward Chavez was based on fear of what he might do. Now that he's dead people will have a chance to take a fair look at what he actually did, for good or ill.
posted by empath at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This thread should be Exhibit A the next time someone claims there is a left-of-center political consensus on MetaFilter.

I am left of center. I want a workable social revolution in Venezuela that actually delivers on Chavez's many, many promises, and I am absolutely not defending the ridiculous regime that Chavez toppled. Venezuela used to be run by "100 families", one of the most extreme oligarchies in the world. That was not sustainable. But you can't build a modern state without a pathway out of poverty into the middle class, and Chavez had no ideas on that subject.
posted by Fnarf at 3:17 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Describing him as a thug just shows that you don't know what you're talking about

Have you even seen his rap video? Black Kangol sweatsuit. Mad dance skillz. He's Thug 4 life yo.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:17 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a newer (2012) HRW report on Venezuela, too.

Made by capitalist running dogs, I suppose.
posted by dhens at 3:22 PM on March 5, 2013


What is your response to the Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela

More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question Human Rights Watch's Venezuela Report (open letter)
Academics Respond to Human Rights Watch Director's Defense of Venezuela Report

I find both Grandin and Tinker-Salas always worth listening to. Grandin was on Behind the News recently discussing the future of Chavismo. Here (PDF) is a slightly older piece of Grandin's on recent Venezuelan politics.
posted by RogerB at 3:23 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, that Human Rights Watch report makes Venezuela sound almost as bad as the United States.
posted by mullingitover at 3:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am left of center. I want a workable social revolution in Venezuela that actually delivers on Chavez's many, many promises, and I am absolutely not defending the ridiculous regime that Chavez toppled. Venezuela used to be run by "100 families", one of the most extreme oligarchies in the world.

That's the basic problem. The left wants someone like Chavez to be better than he could possibly be. Anyone other than a Bolivarist like Chavez would have fallen to a coup... and the alternative to Chavez? But then, if you stand back and say a pox on both sides, the default goes to Chavez's feudal opponents who count on the assistance of the US plutocracy and get it.

His death gives his political supporters an opportunity to build power on a broader base than one man.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I find both Grandin and Tinker-Salas always worth listening to. Grandin was on Behind the News recently discussing the future of Chavismo.
Was just re-listening to that having heard this news, thought Grandin provided some great analysis.
posted by Abiezer at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2013


I have family in Venezuela. At one point, they were pretty divided over Chavez but eventually all united against him, not necessarily because of specific policies, but in the way he took control of the entire government. Partially because of that, almost any gains he did make (and I think that almost every one is somewhat mixed, and needs to be examined in light of the rising price of oil), are likely to be undone now that he is gone. The people he helped most, the very poor, will bear the brunt of what's to come no matter who succeeds him. He may not have been a dictator, but he was a megalomaniac.
posted by cell divide at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


Hugo Chavez and the Tragedy of the Venezualian Arrival City an excerpt from Doug Saunders book on urbanization (Arrival City) has a lot to say on how Chavez' programs for the poor faired:
What Chávez had done, in essence, was to replace existing state programs with his own “revolutionary” programs, staffed by volunteers and visiting Cuban professionals, and with an ideological, rather than an economic or social, mission. The largest sum of money was spent subsidizing consumption, which did not change the underlying conditions, and often replaced programs that might have done so. As a result, rather than improving life, these programs actually caused a sharp decrease in the material conditions of the rural-migrant poor.
posted by readery at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess it means nothing that under Chavez, crime shot up so that now his country has the worst crime in all of Latin America?
posted by You Guys Like 2 Party? at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2013


In it he also alleges that Chavez supporters were threatened with losing government benefits — which would fit in with the general clientelism that animates too much of the Latin American political experience.

Dude, you were the one invoking Saddam fucking Hussein's election victories, not the "general clientelism [of the] Latin American political experience." My link was directed towards that specifically dumb comparison. I'm happy to grant that Chavez embraced far too much of the regional playbook if you stop implying that Venezuela was a fucking one-party state with sham elections.
posted by holgate at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lots of right wing lies upthread about the "dictator" Chavez stealing elections, banning all international election observers, etc.

There's even a heavily favorited comment comparing Chavez to Saddam Hussein.

I understand it's difficult to form a reasonable and balanced judgment of Chavez in the face of regular anti-Chavez propaganda appearing in the press the past 14 yrs.

But it's remarkable to see this many misinformed and gullible commenters on the site.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


leotrotsky: "Um, what? Absent maybe Cincinnatus, there are no good dictators. I don't care what his politics are, he stole a country and then muzzled the independent media. I'll save my mourning for someone who deserves it."

Eponysterical? The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie can never be defeated by playing by bourgeois liberal values. Explain how he "stole a country". He resoundingly was elected over and over. Of course, it's A-OK when the opposition tries to engage in a coup, that's totally ok.
posted by symbioid at 3:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Have we not one American politician so brave? - perhaps nsfw.
posted by buzzman at 3:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"But you can't build a modern state without a pathway out of poverty into the middle class, and Chavez had no ideas on that subject."

Or you share the benefits that the middle class enjoys with the working class, instead of chasing some ideal bourgeois society where everyone is comfortably "middle class" and no one has to do any actual physical labor.
posted by yonega at 3:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


cell divide: "At one point, they were pretty divided over Chavez but eventually all united against him, not necessarily because of specific policies, but in the way he took control of the entire government."

Ah, a Latin Tony Blair. Now I get it.
posted by meehawl at 3:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm left of center. I lived in Venezuela in the 1980's, so I understand firsthand what pre-Chavez Venezuela was like. I am all for social safety nets, ending hunger, improving public education and so forth. I am also a strong supporter of a free press, an independent judiciary, and freedom of speech and assembly. I've always been skeptical of his commitment to democracy, given that his first attempt at becoming President was via a military coup. Taking over PDVSA and converting it to part of the Chavez machinery was effectively eating the country's seed corn.

Venezuela deserves better.
posted by ambrosia at 3:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Joe Kennedy has been offering free heating oil through his non-profit Citizens Energy to those in need here in New England -- and, elsewhere -- for years. He has been criticized for taking the free oil supplied by CITGO and publicly thanking Chavez for offering such.
This time of year in Boston, we’re used to seeing ex-Congressman Joe Kennedy on late-night TV, reminding us that “no one should be left out in the cold.” It’s a plug for the home heating oil assistance program run by his non-profit, Citizens Energy, in partnership with CITGO, the Houston-based oil refiner owned by PDVSA, Venezuela’s national petroleum company.

Now in its eighth year, the program began in 2005 as a response to fuel price hikes after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to CITGO, it has helped more than 1.7 million poor and working families in the United States stay warm through the donation of 200 million gallons of Venezuelan heating oil worth more than $400 million.

The program currently operates in 25 states and the District of Columbia, including 240 Native American tribal communities. This year, at least 100,000 families are expected to benefit. “Venezuela’s commitment to the poor transcends all boundaries, ideological and geographical,” said Claudia Salerno Caldera, Venezuela’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for North America, at the kick-off for the 2013 program in Baltimore. *
Politics aside, many have thanked Chavez and CITGO for "stepping up to the plate" while other oil companies and countries refused Kennedy's request for oil assitance.
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Despite the rhetoric, Chávez decreased the proportion of public spending on health, education, and housing compared with the years leading up to his attempted coup."
posted by Fnarf at 2:59 PM on March 5 [1 favorite +] [!]"


I was curious about this. Since no figures or references were given. This information should be fairly accessible. The information I found seemed to contradict your quote, while providing figures and references.

"Expenditures per capita in education and health fell from 1,100 bolivares (constant prices of 1984) in 1977-1982, to about one third of that amount during the Caldera administration (1994-1999). Expenditures on public education had fallen from almost 4 percent of the GDP to less than 2 percent in the same period and expenditures on health from almost 1 percent to 0.21 percent."

"On balance, the attempts of the Chavez administration to remedy this situation during the period 1999-2003 were relatively disappoint for its supporters and the promised social reforms were still not completely under way. Nevertheless, there were clear indications of its priorities. The progressive reduction of social expenditure was reversed. Between 1998 and 2001, these allocations as a proportion of GDP rose from 8.4 percent to 11.3 percent. Educations expenditures increased from 3.2 percent to 4.3 percent and social security expenditure from 1.6 percent to 3.1 percent. (Parra and Lacruz, 2003; Wilpert, 2004)"
posted by SollosQ at 3:51 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"are likely to be undone now that he is gone. The people he helped most, the very poor, will bear the brunt of what's to come no matter who succeeds him."

I didn't see many reasons in support of your claim. Here's some to doubt it:

Chávez’s party won in 20 of 23 states during a regional election on Dec. 16, even with Chávez himself absent from the campaign trail. This indicates that his successor will likely win if he should step down.

This should not be surprising. All of the left-leaning governments in South America--Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uruguay--have been re-elected, some repeatedly, for similar reasons: They have brought real economic and social change and significant improvements in living standards for the majority.

posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:52 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Initially a hero, corrupted by power, but so it goes.
I wish Venezuela luck finding leaders with the younger Chavez' principles.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:53 PM on March 5, 2013


The people of Venezuela made Chavez, not the other way around. It is remarkable how deep the idea that Chavez is a dictator is rooted in the American national psyche -- despite the fact that the four elections he won shame American elections to the hollows.
posted by Catchfire at 3:54 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Lots of right wing lies upthread about the "dictator" Chavez stealing elections, banning all international election observers, etc.

They provided links, you have not.
posted by zabuni at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


holgate: Dude, you were the one invoking Saddam fucking Hussein's election victories,

No he wasn't, read the thread. klangklangstan did not invoke Saddam, someone else did and when MartinWisse complained, klangklanstan just pointed out that you invite that when you make suspect elections proof of support. He never compared Chavez to Saddam.


SollousQ:Call me crazy, but I don't think George Bush was an asshole, nor Chavez some thug.

Chavez has some gray, but no, Bush was a total asshole.
posted by spaltavian at 3:55 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why is it so difficult for people to judge others with a level head? Everyone wants to demonize Bush. He wasn't intelligent, but he had good intentions. He was no mastermind. He largely went off the advice that he was given. Some were good, some were bad. Everyone wants to demonize Chavez, but he seems about the same (as does everyone! Obama, Carter, Reagan, Kennedy, Olaf Palme, Hadrian, etc. Let's stop trying to demonize or glorify everyone and be calm for once.). He probably wasn't some genius prodigy of economic acuity.

"What Chávez had done, in essence, was to replace existing state programs with his own “revolutionary” programs, staffed by volunteers and visiting Cuban professionals, and with an ideological, rather than an economic or social, mission. The largest sum of money was spent subsidizing consumption, which did not change the underlying conditions, and often replaced programs that might have done so."

I don't know about the first part, but I can see the latter part about not changing the underlying conditions. The economy is complex. I wouldn't be surprised if he (or he and his economic advisers) failed to address some fundamental economic problems. But I'm sure he had good intentions.

I am all for social safety nets, ending hunger, improving public education and so forth. I am also a strong supporter of a free press, an independent judiciary, and freedom of speech and assembly. I've always been skeptical of his commitment to democracy, given that his first attempt at becoming President was via a military coup.

I get this too. I just wish people didn't assume that concerns for "democracy" are self-evidently the right answer, and concerns for economics not.

Why is it so difficult for us to sit down and delineate what Chavez did, what he accomplished, what he failed to do, what principles guided his actions (I'm assuming Chavez had good intentions, just methods that many people might disagree with - so let's explore these methods with the assumption of good intentions (principle of charity)), and judge how these things match up to our own values of democratic justice, economic justice, and so on?
posted by SollosQ at 3:58 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


And one of the things about somebody like Chavez is that it's hard to get a proper picture of him and his government, how well it's doing or not if you rely on the normal American or European media sources.
I think this is key. An awful lot of what everyday folk "know" about Venezuela is worthless media crud. I'm not saying that Chavez was good, or that he was bad, as I truthfully don't know. But I believe that getting a true picture of Chavez is hard, and many of us don't have one.
posted by Jehan at 4:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lots of right wing lies upthread about the "dictator" Chavez stealing elections, banning all international election observers, etc.

They provided links, you have not.


Somebody did upthread.

Why the US demonises Venezuela's democracy
Here is what Jimmy Carter said about Venezuela's "dictatorship" a few weeks ago: "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."
posted by mrgrimm at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Refresh my memory about Chavez:

Did he claim that survival of democracy in his country depended on his ability to eavesdrop on any phone conversation and intercept every email?

Did he ever assert that he had absolute right to assassinate Venezuelan citizens anywhere in the world sans oversight of the courts?
posted by fredludd at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]




I think Saddam Hussein had a 99% majority, right?

And Bushie won Florida too, I presume?
posted by readyfreddy at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't mourn or celebrate the loss of a leader that I barely know about. However, I do wish the best for the Venezualen people, and that their transfer of power and future is peaceful.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a long interesting obit over at The Economist that compares Chavez's record against that of South America in general.
posted by sien at 4:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am all for social safety nets, ending hunger, improving public education and so forth. I am also a strong supporter of a free press, an independent judiciary, and freedom of speech and assembly.

That's super, but what if the press and judiciary is entirely owned and operated by a wealthy oligarchy desperate to reinstate a political system favorable only to their interests at the expense of the dirt poor, including a previous attempt to incite the overthrow of a democratically elected government in 2002? Are you also for equality of speech?

Honestly, the amount of vitriol upthread is a disgrace.
posted by smithsmith at 4:20 PM on March 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm not necessarily cheering Chavez's death, but at the same time, yay, now Venezuelans can have yeast! Maybe? (My brother lived in Venezuela for a couple periods of time in the past few years, and one of the most vexing things he found about trying to cook there was the unavailability of yeast; the only explanation he could get was that Chavez didn't like it.)
posted by limeonaire at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2013


SolloosQ: Why is it so difficult for people to judge others with a level head? Everyone wants to demonize Bush. He wasn't intelligent

I evaluate Bush with extremely clear eyes. Right off the bat, you are very mistaken about Bush. Bush was intelligent.

but he had good intentions.

Not that this would excuse the catastrophe that was his presidency, but no he didn't. He wanted an imperial presidency, and actively sought to silence dissent. He lied about Iraq's involvement in 9/11 to start a war- again, absolutely knowingly, these people weren't stupid and new Curveball was telling them what they wanted to hear.

Intentions good or bad, the worse mark against him was his incompetence, brought on by arrogance and self-regard, not stupidity. Only under Reagan have we had a more dangerous man in the Oval Office.
posted by spaltavian at 4:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Chavez was most like Mosaddegh.
posted by jamjam at 4:28 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can lie about everything. You can lie about GDP and inflation (just ask Argentina). You can lie about your government programs. You can lie about your poverty statistics. You can lie about your "imperialist" enemies. You can lie about your friendship with Iran and the FARC. You can lie about your "democratic" elections.

But it's really hard to lie about the bodies piling up. So tell me, Chavez apologists, if Venezuela is the socialist paradise with freedom and justice for all, why is the homicide rate spiraling out of control in Venezuela? Here's the source if you care to look at it.

Good riddance, but I won't even gloat or celebrate. Latin America never learns, and another will come to take his place.
posted by gertzedek at 4:28 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna make a generator that runs on hyperbole. This thread will light the world!

"Intentions good or bad, the worse mark against him was his incompetence, brought on by arrogance and self-regard, not stupidity. Only under Reagan have we had a more dangerous man in the Oval Office."

Hmm. Nixon, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson come to mind. But, you know, Bush is definitely in the top five worst presidents ever.
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on March 5, 2013


Hugo Chavez, undefeated
posted by Catchfire at 4:30 PM on March 5, 2013


klangklanstan just pointed out that you invite that when you make suspect elections proof of support.

And he did that by defining "suspect elections" sufficiently broadly that you might as well throw Florida 2000 into the mix alongside the North Korean legislative elections of 2009. As SollosQ notes upthread, terminological bullshit doesn't help here.

What you can say about Chavez is that he was lucky in who his enemies were: the domestic oligarchs and their sense of entitlement, a spook/exile community sufficiently distracted with other foreign entanglements that it managed to fuck up a standard-issue coup, and so on. South America is undeniably a more hospitable environment for less compromised left-wing governments these days.

On that note, the School of the Americas remains open for business, albeit under a new name.
posted by holgate at 4:30 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


"But it's really hard to lie about the bodies piling up. So tell me, Chavez apologists, if Venezuela is the socialist paradise with freedom and justice for all, why is the homicide rate spiraling out of control in Venezuela? Here's the source if you care to look at it."

I'll hold the straw man's arms. You beat him!
posted by klangklangston at 4:31 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Chavez did not operate in a vacuum. Like smithsmith pointed out - it sounds terrible that Chavez attacked the press and judiciary, but then again, those were wholly owned by a corrupt oligarchy bent on protecting their privilege at the cost of grinding poverty for the masses.

Now, no doubt Chavez was a pretty nasty character - you probably have to be somewhat ruthless to stage a coup, no matter your motives. No question he abused his power, and undoubtedly committed many horrible acts.

But he also operated in a country where the world's only remaining superpower conspired to subvert democracy. Never, ever forget that context. You cannot judge his actions without this ever-looming shadow over everything.

That btw. has also been the bane of Cuba. There is no doubt in my mind that Castro was a dictator who committed terrible crimes. I also remain unconvinced, that the vicious regime he overthrew - or any regime installed by the ever-meddling U.S. would have been on balance a positive for the majority of Cubans. What if the price of not having an absolute hellhole, is being liberated by an unsavory character like Castro? If the U.S. didn't meddle, perhaps they wouldn't need a Castro, or at least a Castro would not have lasted as long.

So, Chavez was a bad, bad man - but what he replaced was worse, and at least a bit of his badness can be laid at the door of the Ever-Meddler to the North.

Wouldn't it be nice, if Latin American countries - or indeed, countries the world over - could chart their own destiny without constant illegal interference from the U.S.?
posted by VikingSword at 4:33 PM on March 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


I love the USA and I'm a big fan of Israel but I have the sneaking suspicion that Israel irradiated Arafat (remember he was holed up weeks prior to his death as Israeli vehicles possibly containing radiation guns crept closer to his compound?). I also suspect that Chavez was similarly assassinated by Bush neocons. Anyone else feel this way?
posted by pallen123 at 4:35 PM on March 5, 2013


But it's really hard to lie about the bodies piling up. So tell me, Chavez apologists, if Venezuela is the socialist paradise with freedom and justice for all, why is the homicide rate spiraling out of control in Venezuela?

Honduras has twice the homicide rate of Venezuela and has police and military linked death squads carrying out targeted assassinations of union leaders but I suppose that's fine with you as long as they aren't nationalizing their natural resources and helping out the poor.
posted by smithsmith at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


pallen123: "I also suspect that Chavez was similarly assassinated by Bush neocons. Anyone else feel this way?"

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by gertzedek at 4:39 PM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Like most commenters in this thread I have ambivalent thoughts and feelings about Chavez' integrity as a leader, while my hope was for the poor and middle class of Venezuela to find a way out of the oppressive poverty and corrupt kleptocracy that had dominated Venezuela before Chavez came along. Perhaps someone just as megalomaniacal as Chavez was needed to break the former hold of the elite and the International Big Oil corporations on Venezuela?

It seems, from what I've read, that he did make solid improvements in his country in some areas and inspired socialist activists in South America. Then there were the many who knew him who he disappointed badly. Now the military is much more politicized and more involved in politics than it was before Chávez, which puts Venezuela in real danger.

I was on his side theoretically as far as his socialism and anti-imperialism. With the nightmares that the Bush dynasty created for the US, the malice the CIA committed in both Central and South America over decades, I understand Chavez' stance being an adversary of the United States' foreign policy. His life story is extraordinary. He rose out of the ashes of deep poverty in a rural village, to become a major player in global politics. That had to take some intense drive. What fierce energy makes a leader achieve power can also be what leads to downfall.

I found this interview informative and interesting: Hugo Chavez BBC interview part 1/3 | 2/3 | and 3/3.

A beautiful song, posted here with the Venezuelan people in mind: Thanks to Life (Gracias a la Vida) Wishing that Venezuela achieves political, economic and social stability in the near future.
posted by nickyskye at 4:40 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


holgate: And he did that by defining "suspect elections" sufficiently broadly that you might as well throw Florida 2000 into the mix

No you're putting my words into his mouth. It's a pretty dishonest way to debate.

Florida 2000 was absurd, but in went through the declared, public channels. An election won on a technicality is bullshit and needs to be fixed, but it's nothing like the show elections held throughout the world.
posted by spaltavian at 4:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So, Chavez was a bad, bad man - but what he replaced was worse, and at least a bit of his badness can be laid at the door of the Ever-Meddler to the North."

That's fair, and it's a shame there were never any prosecutions (at least that I heard about) of the Americans that supported the anti-Chavez coup. I do think that it's also worth mentioning that Chavez was the impetus for some changes within the World Bank and IMF, as his use of oil money to support redevelopment at better rates within the rest of South America pushed the IMF toward reforms in what they required of governments that were under IMF repayment orders. That did not win him a ton of friends in the international monetary community.

(I'm also curious — since there's been a global shift since I last really studied Venezuelan politics — if Chavez was able to diversify the energy sources within Venezuela, since the '70s oil boom and bust was part of why Venezuela was so fucked up when Chavez took it over.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did Saddam not win at least four elections with a huge majority?

Of course not. They weren't actual elections, they were fake ones. There's a difference.

People who don't know that Chavez won several non-fake elections can't tell the difference, haven't been paying attention or ... are gullible media consumers. Take your pick (but pick the last one for commenters in this thread!).
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:43 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never been particularly bothered that he won four elections -- there were some irregularities, but he seemed widely popular. I have been uncomfortable from the beginning that every time he approached a term limit, he changed the constitution so that he could continue as president. You can always say it was so he could "complete the revolution" or continue helping the poor, but the fact is he did not participate in a democratic election where he handed over power to another democratically elected leader.
posted by dhartung at 4:44 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


[Comment deleted. Reel it in, some, klang, your GRAR's overtaking your substance.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:45 PM on March 5, 2013


I don't personally know a lot about Chavez and Venezuela's situation, but I always find it really interesting that people, especially in the West, are so quick to jump to the support of democracy regardless of any shortcomings and costs.

I am probably going to get hate for this but I don't think democracy is necessarily a universal band-aid for all problems. It is always placed on this pedestal like it is, and I think that simplifies the issues and overlooks a lot of problems.
posted by cyml at 4:46 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Nixon, Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson come to mind.

Those are in the mix, but A. Johnson was more bad at the job than dangerous, and Nixon was evil but competent. Bush and Reagan had a pretty rare combination of hubris, incompetence and malice.
posted by spaltavian at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nixon was evil, and Bush/Reagan had malice? See, these are the things I find difficult to believe. Unless you're using these very strong properties much more loosely.
posted by SollosQ at 4:54 PM on March 5, 2013


Yeah, Nixon was evil, much as I try to stay away from describing anyone as "evil." And both Reagan and Bush had antipathy toward both the poor and their political opponents. That's not hard to describe as malice.
posted by klangklangston at 4:56 PM on March 5, 2013


I enjoyed Nixonland for its nuanced and larger picture.
posted by SollosQ at 4:59 PM on March 5, 2013


The comparison of Venezuela's elections with those under Saddam Hussein is despicably ignorant.
posted by moorooka at 5:00 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll hold the straw man's arms. You beat him!

What is it lately with this place not being able to deal with uncomfortable truths about cults of personality? Seriously, people on this site used to be able to see through this sort of propagandist, hagiographic bullshit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:01 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Chavez was a really nice guy who helped everyone and never hurt anyone. I will miss him terribly.
posted by michaelh at 5:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


sien: "There is a long interesting obit over at The Economist that compares Chavez's record against that of South America in general."

Oh this one's rich...

" He turned down an offer of care from a Brazilian hospital that has recently cured three Latin American presidents of cancer, preferring treatment in Cuba, where his condition could be kept secret."

Unlike those great bastions of Capitalism where information about patients flow freely without any concern for the right to privacy! Wait, I'm confused, do we or don't we support the right to medical privacy? Oh I get it... Let's attribute conspiratorial thinking to someone without any actual reasons aside from our prejudices and then apply with a slight offhanded comment as if we weren't just trying to put a little bit of propaganda over on you making it sound as if our opinion was the reality of why he chose Cuba.
posted by symbioid at 5:04 PM on March 5, 2013


I don't personally know a lot about Chavez and Venezuela's situation, but I always find it really interesting that people, especially in the West, are so quick to jump to the support of democracy regardless of any shortcomings and costs.

I think there's the belief that democracy, as bad as it can get, has the capacity to be self-correcting, but that authoritarian regimes are worse in the long term. In a place that bases it's rule on contestable laws at least one has the opportunity to change them.

Authoritarian rule also tends to replace one oligarchy with another, and to bring about very bad civic habits which are difficult to unlearn in the long term (see, fer example, my country: Mexico). The idea that only a "strong man" can change things, means that the population is to be helpless until the next redeemer comes along.

Anyhow, I think outside of Pinochet's Chile, which is one of the few dictatorships/authoritarian regimes that's trotted out as successful, the list of places where authoritarian rule helped in the long term tends to be on the short side.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Authoritarian rule also tends to replace one oligarchy with another, and to bring about very bad civic habits which are difficult to unlearn in the long term (see, fer example, my country: Mexico). The idea that only a "strong man" can change things, means that the population is to be helpless until the next redeemer comes along.
One of the interesting points Prof Grandin made in the radio interview RogerB linked above is how well the social movements have survived at the grassroots despite a superstructure with more authoritarian tendencies. Hope that is the case and they play a big role in what comes next.
posted by Abiezer at 5:12 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Democracy is not a sufficient condition for a decent state and society, but it is a necessary one.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In a sense, it may be better for the future of the 'bolivarian revolution' that he was cut down like this, politically undefeated and having just won another resounding democratic election, rather than have him linger on for another couple of decades as an aging power-addict or until the people of Venezuela repudiated him.

A revolution must be able to survive its leader, and insofar as this one involved an unhealthy element of personality-cult, it is better for Venezuela to have the opportunity to prove that the movement against neoliberalism and oligarchy is greater than just one man.
posted by moorooka at 5:27 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think there's the belief that democracy, as bad as it can get, has the capacity to be self-correcting, but that authoritarian regimes are worse in the long term.

But that's closer on the spectrum of belief to "if you believe in yourself and try hard, you'll accomplish your dreams" than to "the sun will rise tomorrow." There's a parallel argument, perhaps, that modern democratic capitalism has proven itself powerless to challenge oligarchy.

Anyway, I always think that there's a certain amount of projection in US circles -- not just of power, but of the imagination -- towards a set of South American nations that adopted American presidentialism.
posted by holgate at 5:29 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


.
posted by ecourbanist at 5:31 PM on March 5, 2013


I have been uncomfortable from the beginning that every time he approached a term limit, he changed the constitution so that he could continue as president. You can always say it was so he could "complete the revolution" or continue helping the poor, but the fact is he did not participate in a democratic election where he handed over power to another democratically elected leader.

i'd argue that he failed to complete the revolution for this very reason - it was his task to build a political and social structure that would be able to continue what he said he wanted done, with common people being able to debate and participate in the process

instead he decided that no one else could be trusted with this but himself

he should have stepped down - but as a self-deluded demagogue he believed in himself too much and hurt the process he was trying to carry through - he grandstanded too much and constructed not enough

now he's gone and it remains to be seen if his followers are going to be ready to carry on without him effectively

in spite of his stated intentions, he grew to love power too much and i never felt much trust in him
posted by pyramid termite at 5:34 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Onion: After noticing several news stories about the failing health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, local man Spencer Gutowski, 45, struggled Monday to figure out if the death of Chavez was something he was supposed to be pleased about or not. “He’s bad, right? I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s one of the bad ones, but maybe he’s good?” Gutowski told reporters
posted by mediated self at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cancer succumbs to Chavez.

RIP.
posted by Renoroc at 5:43 PM on March 5, 2013


fbook comment from a Venezuelan friend:

"Que feo es estar contento por la desdicha de otra gente, pero bueh!"

"How ugly it is to be happy for other people's misfortune, but bueh!"
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 5:46 PM on March 5, 2013


Just to tally up the score so far, it seems like Chavez:
* won fair elections and helped register voters while Bush won poorly-run elections and worked to disenfranchise voters
* improved his country's economy, health care and education while lowering inequality and government debt. Bush did the opposite
* didn't lead his country on a multi-trillion dollar war to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people and lead a worldwide regime of black prisons, torture and extradition, while Bush...

In conclusion,

.
posted by crayz at 5:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Good riddance.
I say that due to his unwavering support for brutal dictators, Libya's Gaddafi and Syria's Al-Assad.

I guess reducing poverty in his country while egging on and supporting mass murder makes him a 'complicated figure'
posted by mulligan at 5:48 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Submit. Obey.
posted by vicx at 5:53 PM on March 5, 2013


I guess reducing poverty in his country while egging on and supporting mass murder makes him a 'complicated figure'

It sounds like you're saying sarcastically, but that sounds about right to me.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:53 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


TIL that commenters on CBC.ca (sort comments by "Highest Rated" and compare to favorites here) are more left-leaning than MetaFilter. Never would have guessed that before.

.
posted by oulipian at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chavez didn't lift anyone out of poverty or anything else. The poor got poorer. Health care, housing, education, housing -- all suffered hugely under Chavez. What the poor got a lot of was ideological lecturing. // Despite the rhetoric, Chávez decreased the proportion of public spending on health, education, and housing compared with the years leading up to his attempted coup.

If anybody is interested in actual numbers, rather than ideological lecturing in one direction or the other, I've gone through the 1260 different indicators in the World Bank's World Development Indicators list for Venezuela. There are two values presented, "Pre" and "Post" (with a percent change, if it can be calculated). Pre represents 1999 values and Post is the most recent values*. A .csv version is here and a tab-separated version (which you can cut and paste into Excel) is here.

So for education, the total proportion of GNI spent on education did decline from 3.88% to 3.55%.
However, the total amount spent on education increased 269%, and the outcomes expected from education improved; preprimary school enrolment went from 45% to 74%, adjusted primary net enrolment went from 87% to 95% and primary completion rose from 81% to 94%; secondary school enrolment went from 48% to 72%, and tertiary school enrolment went from 28% to 78%. Youth literacy rate had small increases from 97.2% to 98.5%, and the number of researchers in R&D rose from 56 per million to 185. That looks like a substantial improvement in education to me.

the percentage of underweight babies rose from 8.4 percent to 9.1 percent.
True, low-birthweight babies went up (from 7.4% to 8.2% in the WB data) But neonatal (first month) mortality declined 29% and infant (first year) mortality declined 32%.

One set of numbers not in the data because the most recent year is 2006 is the poverty headcount ratio at $1.25 and $2 a day (PPP). The former declined from 11.41% to 6.63% of the population, and the latter from 23.18% to 12.91%.

* Data is not always available for all years in all indicators. If 1999 data was not available, then an average of any 1998-2000 values were used; if those were not available, then an average of any 1997-2001 values, and blank if there's nothing in any of those years. Similarly, the post is from 2012 if available, otherwise 2010-2012 if available, otherwise 2008-2012 if available, and blank if no data in the 2007-2012 period.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:57 PM on March 5, 2013 [34 favorites]


.
posted by Vindaloo at 6:09 PM on March 5, 2013


symbioid: "Wait, I'm confused, do we or don't we support the right to medical privacy? "

Heads of state do not share the same rights to medical privacy that you and I do. Chavez has been very sick for quite some time and made all efforts possible to hide it, including his "weekend at bernie's" photo op a couple of weeks ago. They could only keep his condition under a cloud of secrecy because he was in Cuba. If he went to Brazil, he wouldn't be able to keep a lid on it.
posted by gertzedek at 6:10 PM on March 5, 2013


Better than Bush is not high praise.
posted by Area Man at 6:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's hoping the next one's no worse.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:21 PM on March 5, 2013


So what are the odds of a tiny bit of polonium-210 being involved in his illness?
I also suspect that Chavez was similarly assassinated by Bush neocons. Anyone else feel this way?


Someone does.....
Maduro says that a "scientific commission" will eventually find proof that Chavez's illness was caused by poison.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:26 PM on March 5, 2013


.
posted by Karmadillo at 6:29 PM on March 5, 2013


Chavez: Venezuela's Huey Long.
posted by LucretiusJones at 6:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems like a good part of metafilter must regard Venezuela's voting public as idiots for going with this horrible "authoritarian""dictator", who won free and fair election after election and submitted his agenda to referendum after referendum.

Unless you have reason to believe that all of these were rigged, then how about just accepting the fact that the people of Venezuela made this "demagogue/megalomaniac/bad bad man", their democratic choice over and over and over? You don't like him, fine, but lay the blame where it belongs: on Venezuela's voting public.
posted by moorooka at 6:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Poisoning with radionuclides is now pretty easy to detect, even after the fact. Hell, they were able to identify the specific reactor that produced the polonium-210 that killed Alexander Litvinenko.

That said, there is a way to give someone cancer that doesn't involve radiation and is virtually untraceable. The catch is that you need medical access to the target. First, you obtain live cells from the target, such as leukocytes from a blood sample. Second, you induce oncogenes and/or knock out tumor suppressor genes—this can be done by relatively common lab procedures used to generate immortalized cell lines. Third, you inject the cells back into the target. If the cells aren't wiped out by the target's immune system, they'll replicate and form a tumor. In the case of leukocytes, there's a good chance of metastasis.

But I doubt anyone has ever gone through the trouble to do this, given that there are far easier and more fool-proof ways to kill someone, particularly if you have the kind of access this would require. It'd be simpler just to give them HIV or CRE.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also suspect that Chavez was similarly assassinated by Bush neocons. Anyone else feel this way?

So we're a few months into Obama's second term and you're still blaming Bush for Chavez's death?
posted by gyc at 6:48 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


it was the lizard people that killed chavez - i'd tell you how and why but then they'd have to kill all of us

but i have an even more radical theory - sometimes people just die from cancer without any secret agents or conspiracies being responsible - i know, i know, it's a stretch but it could have happened ...

sheesh
posted by pyramid termite at 7:04 PM on March 5, 2013


If you have some time to kill the always excellent Frontline did an episode a few years ago looking into Chavez, his policies, and his popularity in Venezuela. It's a good place to start if you want try to make sense his political endurance.
posted by Alison at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


dephlogisticated, would you please come to our office, you seem to know just a little bit too much about certain kinds of assassination techniques, and we would like to have a word with you.
posted by symbioid at 7:19 PM on March 5, 2013


.
posted by estuardo at 7:32 PM on March 5, 2013


Moorooka: accepting the fact that the people of Venezuela made this "demagogue/megalomaniac/bad bad man", their democratic choice over and over and over? You don't like him, fine, but lay the blame where it belongs: on Venezuela's voting public.

You know that, by definition, demagogues enjoy popular support, right? Demagogues get their support by appeal to the ignorance, fears and narrow interests of a polity. The poor are a popular choice for this.

You'd be a pretty bad demagogue (i.e. assassinated) if you hadn't consolidated support in a bloc through firey rhetoric, scapegoating and patronage.
posted by spaltavian at 7:39 PM on March 5, 2013


it's also fair to ask what other choices the venezuelan public had, isn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:43 PM on March 5, 2013


moorooka, Bush won at least one "free and fair election", and Wisconsin's Scott Walker has, apparently, won two -- but I hope I still get to criticize them. Do I have your permission, or is winning an election a get-out-of-criticism card?
posted by dhartung at 7:43 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Seems like a good part of metafilter must regard Venezuela's voting public as idiots for going with this horrible "authoritarian""dictator", who won free and fair election after election and submitted his agenda to referendum after referendum.

We elected George Bush twice, so I understand.
posted by empath at 7:49 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]




United By Hate
The uses of anti-Semitism in Chávez’s Venezuela
Over the past four years, Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism, including a 2005 Christmas declaration by President Hugo Chávez himself: “The World has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him. . . . have taken control of the riches of the world.”
Intriguingly, Venezuala's Jewish leaders rushed to defend him, denying that Chavez had been referring to Jews. On the other hand, half of Venezuala's Jews have left the country since Chavez came to power; there may have been a degree of intimidation at play.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:21 PM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


George Bush was elected fairly once, I believe, in 2004, and installed once, in 2000, after losing by half a million votes. In any case, he was not a "dictator", neither is Scott Walker, neither was Chavez.

Is Chavez a "demagogue"? What does that even mean - somebody who appeals to the "poor", who are, by definition "ignorant"? I guess they must be ignorant, voting for a demagogue like that!

My problem is with some of the ridiculous language being used to describe the man. Winning an election is not a "get-out-of-being-criticized" card, but winning multiple elections and putting your agenda to over a dozen referenda should be a "get-out-of-being-called-a-dictator" card. When was the last time a US leader put a policy to a referendum? When do you guys get to vote on the future of Social Security or universal health care?

Same goes for "authoritarian". Let's see how long supporters of a foreign-backed military coup would last in the US, where, unlike in Venezuela, treason remains a capital offense.
posted by moorooka at 8:25 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


moorooka, it should interest you to know that while there is no federal referendum process, it exists in various forms in many of the states.

Let's see how long supporters of a foreign-backed military coup would last in the US

Treason never prospers, here's the reason. (You know the rest, I hope.)

Demagogue is, I would say, a term that applies well to Chavez. As someone said above, Venezuela's Huey Long. Or probably more on point, Venezuela's Peron. Despite popular sentiment there is such a thing as left-authoritarianism.

As for "dictator" that is really a term that is defined more in centralization or personalization of power than whether or not one is elected.

Of course, a democratically elected leader should be comfortable being called any name in the book. Why so sensitive?
posted by dhartung at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]




I just got back from drinks with some Venezuelan guys I work with. None of them are mourning Chapel. They were telling me that their families are heading home early from work and hunkering down in case of unrest. While we debate Chavez's legacy, spare a thought for a country about to undergo transition.
posted by arcticseal at 9:05 PM on March 5, 2013


True, nobody dared call Pinochet a traitor, but that's what he was. And Chavez had that lesson to learn from.

What's the difference between a "demagogue" and a "populist"?

I would not define "dictator" simply by personalization and centralization of power, but by that plus the illegality of opposition and, obviously, the absence of regular free and fair elections. That is, if you're using the word in any sort of serious manner.

It's not being "sensitive" to point out that words have meanings, and sure, call an elected leader names if you want, but it's not far off from the anti-Obama nonsense you get out of the more extreme elements of the Tea Party.
posted by moorooka at 9:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for "dictator" that is really a term that is defined more in centralization or personalization of power than whether or not one is elected.

No, "dictator", as nearly everyone uses the term, refers to a leader whose continued power is not subject to the will of the people.

Anyone we call a "dictator" who was initially elected, went on to concentrate their power precisely so that it could not be taken away via regularly scheduled popular elections.

Since Chavez never did anything of the sort, calling him a "dictator" signals an incapacity to filter out inaccurate right wing smears.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:13 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Over the past four years, Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism, including a 2005 Christmas declaration by President Hugo Chávez himself:

That probably explains why a woman (and Ortega supporter) I went on a date with in Nicaragua told me with a straight face: "Of course, I don't blame you for what your government does -- everyone knows that the Jews and the Freemasons control everything." She seemed kind of taken aback that I disagreed with that, and thought I was terribly naive.
posted by empath at 9:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You must be glad you finally found the perfect explanation for that one, empath!

*eyes roll into back of head*
posted by moorooka at 9:22 PM on March 5, 2013


I personally dont trust the New Yorker, or even the NYTimes to report on Venezuela or Chavez fairly. But, as someone smarter than me once said, at least the Financial press *has* to report numbers accurately. The reality is that Chavez made a lot of money for investors and his country

"Since taking office in 1999, Hugo Chavez has spread his socialist revolution in Venezuela by seizing more than 1,000 companies. For bondholders that stuck by him, he’s also delivered returns that are double the emerging- market average.

The 681 percent advance, equal to 14.7 percent annually, has enriched investors from OppenheimerFunds Inc. to Goldman Sachs Asset Management LP that counted on Chavez’s willingness to siphon the country’s oil wealth to pay its creditors in the face of start-stop growth and falling reserves. While his policies drove away enough investors to keep Venezuela’s borrowing costs over 12 percent on average during his tenure, or 4 percentage points higher than those of developing nations, he’s never missed a bond payment.

Venezuelan bonds accounted for about 6.7 percent of the holdings of Goldman Sachs’s $2.9 billion Growth & Emerging Markets Debt Fund, the third-biggest investment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The fund returned 12.8 percent over the past three years, outperforming 90 percent of its peers.

“This is a really great high-income and high-total-return investment for your portfolio,” said Sara Zervos, an emerging- market debt manager at New York-based OppenheimerFunds, which oversees $176 billion in assets and has invested in Venezuelan notes for more than a decade. “Chavez hasn’t done a lot of good for his country, but he has the objective to service the bonds. Our interests are aligned,,"

me> "The world is not going to end when there are so many people making so much money." - Hal Hartley, Unbelievable Truth 1989
posted by lslelel at 9:44 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


My fiance and I were milling about in the living room- our twice
monthly neighborhood-based club meeting of the Communist Party had just
ended and everyone had gone. He was complaining that a 2 1/2 hour
meeting was just obviously too long. I disagreed, saying something about how I spend 8 hours a day at work having to listen to people talk about TV shows and/or how slow SAP is running, so 2 1/2 hours seemed about right to me.

My housemate walked into the living room (not a party member, but still my comrade!) and said, "I don't know if you guys heard, but Hugo Chavez died today. I was going to come and let you know, but I didn't want to interrupt your Communist meeting." And then, with audible hesitation, "I, you know, didn't know what you guys were talking about." My housemate is very considerate (and maybe a little afraid of communists?).

.
posted by eunoia at 10:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Knowing some Venezuelans, it's hard to be 100% positive about Chavez. To take the high road, let's hope that his message, that the poor need to be treated with decency by society, is remembered, while many of his specific actions and tactics are forgotten.

> I am absolutely stunned that there could be any meaningful support for this man

Your average American President has caused far more deaths of innocents at the end of his first term than Chavez ever caused in 14 years in power - but people fawn over US Presidents constantly here without such negative comments.

You can say a lot of bad, truthful things about Chavez, but he was a rank amateur in evil compared to the Obamas, Bushes, Clintons and Reagans of America. A huge number of people died horribly in the last forty years in Central and South America entirely thanks to the United States and their relentless support of some the most horrible dictators and right wing "freedom fighters" in history.

"First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


> TIL that commenters on CBC.ca (sort comments by "Highest Rated" and compare to favorites here) are more left-leaning than MetaFilter. Never would have guessed that before.

Metafilter has been moving systematically rightwards in the decade+ that I've been here, but the pace increased dramatically in the last four years.

While Metafilter always has been and continues to be pro birth control and anti drug war, what has particularly changed is the support for organizations on the left, which has dropped into a hole and died, and the support for American foreign military activities, which has spiked.

We're at the point now when any official "enemy of America" is mentioned, we instantly get all these "dictator/buffoon" comments, even by people who couldn't even locate said "enemy"'s home country on a map, nor could summarize these "enemies'" actual platforms and careers.

Interestingly enough, reddit also seems to now be more questioning of "the way things are" than Mefi is (though there are certainly enough conservatives there too). I wonder if it's simply that the Reddit crowd is younger than the Mefi crowd and much more likely to be a 20-something with poor expectations for the future and a consequent skepticism.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:03 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Metafilter has been moving systematically rightwards in the decade+ that I've been here, but the pace increased dramatically in the last four years. While Metafilter always has been and continues to be pro birth control and anti drug war, what has particularly changed is the support for organizations on the left, which has dropped into a hole and died, and the support for American foreign military activities, which has spiked.

That shows left-wing political tribalism more than it shows a move to the right. People are more supportive of their government's foreign policy when it's "their guy" in charge, and vice versa. You'd probably find the tone at Free Republic is more skeptical of American foreign policy now than in 2003, doesn't mean they've moved left.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:45 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just got back from drinks with some Venezuelan guys I work with. None of them are mourning [Chavez].

It's quite likely that if you performed a straw poll of all Venezuelan expats about their attitude towards Chavez, the overwhelming majority of them would be nagative about them. These are after all most likely to be part of the middle and upper class elites the least to gain from his Boliviarian revolution. They are over represented in western media accounts if only because they're more likely to speak English, more likely to be online and more likely to be integrated into western media circles. (all of which is not unique to Venezuela of course.)

One of the eye openers about the 2002 coup against Chavez was to see how large a percentage of the population, the kind of solidly middle class people you'd want as neighbours or co-workers, was in favour of it, of having the military suspend democracy as long as it meant their own relative wealth and power was no longer threatened by Chavez's reforms. It shouldn't have come as a surprise of course, knowing full well how many Chileans are still nostalgic about Pinochet, or that there were quite a few people in Britain in the seventies as well longing for the army to take all thos strikers and leftwing scroungers in check.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Elected democratically, (attempts to) amend the Constitution to abolish term limits, and wins approval through referenda? Sounds familiar...
posted by dhens at 12:57 AM on March 6, 2013


I found it rather telling when articles about the attempted coup on Ecuador's Rafael Correa said Correa claimed to have been held hostage by police.

If that happened to a first-world leader, there would be no talk of claiming.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:09 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone we call a "dictator" who was initially elected, went on to concentrate their power precisely so that it could not be taken away via regularly scheduled popular elections.

Since Chavez never did anything of the sort, calling him a "dictator" signals an incapacity to filter out inaccurate right wing smears.


Hugo Chavez sent security forces to shut down dissent from officials who have run against him in "free" elections, "warning" some and indefinitely detaining others. He also arrested and imprisoned reporters and fined and shut down media outlets which printed news not favorable to his regime. Other dissenters and their families have been threatened, tortured and killed. Even when being treated for cancer, his officials continued these policies in his stead.

These phenomena have been reported independently by various human rights and media outlets. Unless there is a global conspiracy lead against Chavez, it seems fair to call his rule of Venezuela more like a dictatorship than a free and open democracy. Sorry, Metafilter, but you're just wrong on this one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:19 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


.
posted by Mezentian at 1:22 AM on March 6, 2013


I think he was an anachronism, he had a very 18th, 19th century political ethos, and in a way he seemed to be a product of his favorite novels (all classics) and formative ideologies. So he definitely meant good, I think. In that sense, it's really hard to judge him.

Enough has been said in this post about his disregard for human rights, prosecution of opponents, alliance with other dictators, etc etc. It's all true and everyone is right to condemn this. But his mere existence problematized Western "democracy" as modelled by the United States (and imitated by many) in a way it really should be questioned. How do we deal with inequality and corrupution? His answer: mercilessly.

I'm not happy he is dead, at all, I think I will actually miss him (because boy, could he be funny!). Though I don't think his net influence was positive. Venezuelans had to pay a high price for his "revolution" and I'm glad Venezuela finally gets to move forward.
posted by ipsative at 1:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one of those threads that makes me doubt every comment i've ever read on the site about stuff i don't know about. And i don't even know that much about Chavez. You guys should try living in South America for a while.
posted by palbo at 1:38 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one of those threads that makes me doubt every comment i've ever read on the site about stuff i don't know about. And i don't even know that much about Chavez. You guys should try living in South America for a while.

I'm ready to assume many of us already have :)
posted by ipsative at 1:40 AM on March 6, 2013


Martin Wisse:

One of the eye openers about the 2002 coup against Chavez was to see how large a percentage of the population, the kind of solidly middle class people you'd want as neighbours or co-workers, was in favour of it, of having the military suspend democracy as long as it meant their own relative wealth and power was no longer threatened by Chavez's reforms. It shouldn't have come as a surprise of course, knowing full well how many Chileans are still nostalgic about Pinochet, or that there were quite a few people in Britain in the seventies as well longing for the army to take all thos strikers and leftwing scroungers in check.

It's not that shocking when you remember that unlike Salvador Allende or Arthur Scargill, Chavez had previously attempted a coup against a democratically elected president himself. There's something a bit iffy about the idea that a political leader can do that, and then if they subsequently gain power via elections everyone is supposed to consider them a 100% legit democratically elected leader. And you know who else was imprisoned for attempting a coup and then went on to be democratically elected?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 1:53 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


.
posted by colie at 2:26 AM on March 6, 2013


Regarding pre- and post-Chavez Venezuela, I find it surprising that violence and insecurity stats haven't come up yet in the discussion, since that's the #1 reason I've been given by middle-class Venezuelans for leaving the country.

From the same data bank provided by Homeboy Trouble:

Intentional Homicides per 100,000 people
sorry if the formatting is messed up
		1995	1996	1997	1998	1999	2000	2001	2002	2003	2004	2005	2006	2007	2008	2009
Venezuela, RB	20	22	18	19	25	33	32	38	44	37	37	45	48	52	49
Euro area	2	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1	1
United States	8	7	7	6	6	6	6	6	6	5	6	6	6	5	5
Brazil		26	27	29	30	30	30	31	32	33	31	29	31	29	30	23
posted by valdesm at 2:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's not that shocking when you remember that unlike Salvador Allende or Arthur Scargill, Chavez had previously attempted a coup against a democratically elected president himself.

Oh, the democratically elected President, Carlos Andrés Pérez, who was elected on an anti-neoliberalism platform and promptly, upon election, embarked on a major neoliberalisation project? The guy who responded to protests about his neoliberal u-turn with a massacre?

Perez also suspended many parts of the Constitution - "including Article 60 (right to individual liberty and security); Article 62 (inviolability of the home); Article 66 (freedom of expression); Article 71 (right to gather publicly and privately) and Article 115 (right to peaceful protest)"

To imply that prior to Chavez, Venezuela was "democratic" is utterly ludicrous.

I think that Chavez's greatest legacy will be the enfranchisement and politicisation of the poor. He is a complicated figure, no doubt, and I have been very wary of his support for Iran and the like, but the level of demonisation and misinformation is incredible.
posted by knapah at 4:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]




sien: "There is a long interesting obit over at The Economist that compares Chavez's record against that of South America in general"

Wow. Even for a publication as ideologically distant from Chavez, this obit is a real hatchet job. The few achievements that the author grants Chavez are without exception presented as fortunate, or the result of someone else's initiative - they even go as far as crediting Castro rather than Chavez. The coup of 2002 is presented as a "protest". The statistics that are discussed are solely those that are unfavourable in comparison to the rest of South America.
I have no doubt that Chavez was far from a saint, but this piece is just axe-grinding at best.
posted by Jakey at 4:48 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


knapah:

When I said it wasn't shocking I just meant it's not surprising. If Chavez had participated in a coup previously, his opponents and their middle class supporters may have thought "turn about is fair play".

To imply that prior to Chavez, Venezuela was "democratic" is utterly ludicrous.

Show me any mainstream source that claims democracy in Venezuela began in 1998. It was a democracy for 40 years before then. I'm not defending Perez but there's a double standard here. When we talk about "democratic" leaders we can either be talking about the bare minimum of coming to power via democratic elections, or else we can be talking about governing democratically: respecting human rights, freedom of the press and so on. Perez might have passed the first test but failed the second, but then so did Chavez (and many Western leaders too). A coup against them is still a coup against a democratically elected president.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:25 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


moorooka: Is Chavez a "demagogue"? What does that even mean

There are plenty of online dictionaries available; but if you want to set a baseline for the discussion, here's Wikipedia:

" a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, prejudices, and ignorance of the less-educated people of a population in order to gain power. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population."

- somebody who appeals to the "poor", who are, by definition "ignorant"?

If you were secure in your opinion, you wouldn't have to resort to distortion of the opposing view. No one said the poor are ignorant by definition. I said that demagogues exploit ignorance and fear, and that the poor are often their target. If you take issue with that, read a goddamn history book. (If you want an example of a demagogue who aimed at the middle class instead, Joseph McCarthy springs to mind.)

lupus_yonderboy: the support for American foreign military activities, which has spiked.

No, in fact, it has declined significantly. The disconnect is that some very vocal lefties incorrectly insist that Obama and Bush's military/foreign policy is the same. If you cling to this belief, it will look like people's positions have changed, when really the facts on the ground have changed. But now "drones!!!" are the litmus test of a true lefty, and less people are going to meet that standard because they're just not as bad as lying to launch an invasion of Iraq.
posted by spaltavian at 5:25 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


knapah Oh, the democratically elected President, Carlos Andrés Pérez, who was elected on an anti-neoliberalism platform and promptly, upon election, embarked on a major neoliberalisation project? The guy who responded to protests about his neoliberal u-turn with a massacre?

So Chavez is a democratic leader, even though he did not rule in a democratic manner because he was elected, but Perez isn't a democrat, because even though he was elected, he didn't rule in a democratic manner.
posted by spaltavian at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spaltavian, what I'm saying is that suggesting Chavez is untrustworthy because he tried to overthrow a democratic leader is fallacious given the anti democratic history of the Perez government.
posted by knapah at 5:37 AM on March 6, 2013


When I said it wasn't shocking I just meant it's not surprising. If Chavez had participated in a coup previously, his opponents and their middle class supporters may have thought "turn about is fair play".

That makes more sense.
posted by knapah at 5:44 AM on March 6, 2013


Here is what Jimmy Carter said about Venezuela's "dictatorship" a few weeks ago: "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."

JC is a sweetie-pie, but let's face it, he's also a bit of a rube.

Seriously, though, I think he would be a good choice to send to the funeral. Bridge building and all that. (Who is America sending, if anyone?)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:54 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Obama should be sent.
posted by Area Man at 6:36 AM on March 6, 2013


Of course Chavez isn't going to get a reasonable review in the Economist. He believed in an economic structure that put human rights above capital rights. And just like Castro, he probably believed that the United States could have been a partner in alleviating poverty and promoting democracy, but then became overly paranoid after the coup attempt in 2002. And, like Castro, his desperation to hang on to power led to some choices about how free the media could be in the face of relentless pressure from the United States. I think both men suffered from savior complexes, but it was possibly the only thing that saved their country from becoming the next Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, or Iraq. That doesn't excuse the oppression or the murdering, but it should be at least be put in the appropriate context.

The narrative that is presented about Chavez fits in with our twisted definition of democracy, which is vastly different from anything found in a dictionary. American democracy means you obey American interests regardless of what affect it has on the population that has the misfortune of living near resources that we demand. To put it another way:

If you don't sell out your people and national resources to western business, you're a dictator and a danger to world peace.

If you do sell out your people and national resources to western business interests, you are a defender of Democracy and an inspiration.

Providing examples of this concept is simple enough: Bahrain vs Syria, Egypt vs Iraq, Saudi Arabia vs Iran, Trujillo vs Castro, Mossadegh vs Shah, Allende vs Pinochet. There's actually a good illustration of this concept found in Venezuelan history, which you aren't going to hear anywhere. Even in this forum no one is talking about Romulo Gallegos or Marco Perez Jimenez, which is typical. Without a considerable amount of effort you can't escape the established ideology of American exceptionalism and its requirement that Americans become ignorant of the most basic parts of history.

The idea that America's opinion on democracy in Latin America has any merit in the first place is pretty laughable, but let's pretend otherwise and just look at Venezuelan history for a moment.

Venezuela had their first free and fair elections in 1948, after a few years of enlightened military rule. After another coup, a right-wing junta took power under the wing of Marco Peres-Jimenez.
In the decade when he dominated Venezuela, one of the world's largest producers of oil, General Pérez Jiménez was feared and hated inside his country and mocked elsewhere as the prototype of the Latin American military despot. His virulent anti-Communism and his tolerant attitude toward foreign oil companies, however, gained him the backing of the United States. In 1954, nearly four years before his fall from power in a coup and uprising, it even awarded him the Legion of Merit.
...
With his authority secure, General Pérez Jiménez forced many former associates into exile and tortured, murdered and incarcerated hundreds of other opponents. Many were sent to the Guasina Island prison in the Orinoco jungle. The national university was closed, independent labor unions were abolished, and the press was intimidated.

The main pillar of General Pérez Jiménez's rule was the much feared National Security police force. It was run by a cruel but loyal underling, Pedro Estrada, whom Hubert Herring in ''The History of Latin America From the Beginnings to the Present'' called ''as vicious a manhunter as Hitler ever employed.''

Government spending on education and health was slashed, and the earnings from oil sales were diverted into lavish, costly and often superfluous construction projects. General Pérez Jiménez presided over the opening of a highway between Caracas and the Caribbean coast, the building of a copy of Rockefeller Center and a luxury mountaintop hotel that overlooks Caracas and what was said to be the world's most expensive officers' club. His cronies pocketed much of the remaining government budget.
The Legion of Merit that Eisenhower awarded Jimenez is the highest honor the US military can give to a foreigner. And that is another example of what American Democracy means. Helping the poor, taking back control of natural resources, and denying American interest is called Slavery. Annihilating social programs and murdering the opposition while selling the poor out to American interests is called Freedom.

---

As a final note, while I was doing some research for this, I ran across an interesting quote:
There are three possibilities in descending order of preference: a decent democratic regime, a continuation of the Trujillo regime, or a Castro regime. We ought to aim at the first, but we really can't denounce the second until we are sure we can avoid the third.

John F. Kennedy, June 7, 1961
I can imagine what is said when a dove isn't in the White House.
posted by tripping daisy at 6:43 AM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Castro and Chavez dont get to blame all their misdeeds on the US. South Americans have agency. When Chavez jailed opponents, that was a decision he made. It is reasonable to criticize him for it. The US didn't force Castro to round up gay people during the 70s and put them in camps.
posted by Area Man at 6:53 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter has been moving systematically rightwards in the decade+ that I've been here, but the pace increased dramatically in the last four years.

Considering the rejections of mainstream western media, the willingness to overlook Chavez's flaws, and declarations that America is worse, all in this very thread alone, looks to me that Metafilter retains an almost comically left wing mood.

Chavez has turned out to be a very entertaining weathervane.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:56 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


> The disconnect is that some very vocal lefties incorrectly insist that Obama and Bush's military/foreign policy is the same.

The policies could hardly be "the same" - if nothing else, Mr. Obama came into office with two wars already running. However, the Obama Administration has not portrayed itself as very different from the Bush Administration on foreign policy, and indeed, has repeated and approvingly name-checked Cheney as the gold standard on security.

If you are claiming that there has been some significant change in the US's foreign policy between these two Administrations, you should perhaps tell us what it is rather than just baldly claiming we're incorrect.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:41 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


South Americans have agency.

South Americans have a lot more agency today than a decade ago, in part because they're not having to deal with... the Agency.

One of the most interesting reactions to Chavez's death came from Sebastián Piñera, the Chilean president -- a centre-right billionaire elected after a decade of socialist rule -- implying that politicians of all stripes in the region have greater freedom to collaborate without reference to Washington, DC. That's certainly not all Chavez's doing, but it's hard to deny that his presence had a role.
posted by holgate at 8:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hugo Chavez sent security forces to shut down dissent from officials who have run against him in "free" elections

All of Chavez's elections featured his most popular opponents, hand-picked by his political opposition. E.g. Fedecameras always ran their guy, and he always lost. You intimate that Chavez imprisoned his most viable political competition, which is false.

He also arrested and imprisoned reporters and fined and shut down media outlets which printed news not favorable to his regime.

You omit the context that Venezuela's media is mostly owned by a right wing oligarchy that spreads fantastic anti-Chavez propaganda, including accusing him of ordering protesters shot in the run-up to the 2002 coup. The context isn't meant to excuse all political intimidation of the media by Chavez, but after 14 yrs. of rule the majority of Venezuelan media is privately owned and operated, much of it by nakedly anti-Chavez interests. Somehow an opposition press is alive and well despite 14 yrs. of "dictatorship".

Unless there is a global conspiracy lead against Chavez, it seems fair to call his rule of Venezuela more like a dictatorship than a free and open democracy.

No, it's fair to criticize Chavez for a ton of activity (including quashing unions), but overall democratic processes in Venezuela were strengthened under Chavez, and calling his time in office "closer to a dictatorship" is buying into ubiquitous anti-Chavez bias in anglo media, which routinely smears politicians unfriendly to the US's economic ideology and influence.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:08 AM on March 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm not going to pretend to know more about Chavez than I do, and I wouldn't be comfortable coming down hard on either side of the good/bad for Venezuela debate we have going on. I'm listening/reading and learning.

However, I will say that at least some of those "Chavez silenced his media critics" claims seem to be kind of malarkey when I look into them. Take the case of RCTV, the television station Chavez "silenced" by refusing to renew their license in 2006. It doesn't take a lot of reading to find that RCTV gave on-air support to the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002.

If FOX News went on the air right now and advocated the forcible overthrow of the Obama administration--treason, basically--would you consider leaving them on the air for another four years then closing them up via paperwork an extreme reaction or a fairly subdued one?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:18 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a helluva thread, though. Puts the lie to the notion that MeFites are a mostly ideologically homogenous group.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


tripping daisy: "And, like Castro, his desperation to hang on to power led to some choices about how free the media could be in the face of relentless pressure from the United States."

Wow. I'm Latin American, and I've read plenty of Castro apologists in my day, and you, sir, are right up there with the best of them. Congratulations.
posted by gertzedek at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is a helluva thread, though. Puts the lie to the notion that MeFites are a mostly ideologically homogenous group.

Yeah, but think about how rarely these happen. Usually, it's just a heated disagreement about whether we should be very Liberal or really Liberal.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:16 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


In a post on the Atlantic website, Francisco Toro has this to say:

"The debate on whether this mode of governance could meaningfully be described as "democratic" has been hashed over again and again ad infinitum, both in Venezuela and abroad. The recitation of arguments on both sides long since went stale: yes, Chávez was beloved -- genuinely beloved -- of millions of poor Venezuelans, and won election after election for a decade and a half. And yes, having won all those elections he proceeded to act like an absolute monarch rather than an elected official, relishing every chance to showcase his contempt for the institutions of constitutional government, and gradually dismantling them in the process.

Both of these strains are true; there's no easy way to resolve the tension between them. Like an old-style dictator, he treated the state as his personal plaything but, unlike one, his power rested not on violence but on genuine popular affection. Venezuela's history since 1999 has been the story of that contradiction playing itself out across the lives of 29 million people."
posted by Area Man at 10:28 AM on March 6, 2013


This is a helluva thread, though. Puts the lie to the notion that MeFites are a mostly ideologically homogenous group.

It really shows how otherwise very smart people really feel the need to label people as either "good" or "bad".
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow. I'm Latin American, and I've read plenty of Castro apologists in my day, and you, sir, are right up there with the best of them. Congratulations.

Yeah, and what did we do in Iraq during our occupation? We shut down newspapers that stirred dissent. It's a common tactic used by every government, including dozens that the United States supported as legitimate. Castro compared to Suharto is practically a sheep.

American preoccupation with the evils of Castro and Chavez have nothing to do with their actual record. We sponsored Trujillo right next door for decades while he did far worse. The difference is that Trujillo obeyed orders and Castro and Chavez did not.
posted by tripping daisy at 11:06 AM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe I'm more interested in Castro than Trujillo because Trujillo was killed before I was born.
posted by Area Man at 11:15 AM on March 6, 2013


How about Mubarak? How about the Bahraini regime? How about the House of Saud? For Christ's sake, our direct accidental death toll of innocent people eclipses Castro by several orders of magnitude just counting the last decade.
posted by tripping daisy at 11:21 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


The U.S. has supported horrible regimes in the Mideast to (1) keep access to oil and (2) try to prevent further war being waged on Israel. Also, there's been a fear, not entirely unwarranted as it turns out, that whatever comes after Mubarak and the House of Saud could be even worse.

International politics is a dirty business. The U.S. has made unsavory alliances and will continue to do so. We allied with Stalin during WWII. Castro should understand, if you don't. He paired up with the Soviets for even longer. I don't see how any of that makes it improper for the U.S. government or U.S. citizens to question or criticize Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez.

I guess I don't buy the premise that only citizens of pure countries can criticize others. Better that we all point out each other's flaws. The U.S. certainly gets lots of outside critiques, many of which are deserved.
posted by Area Man at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2013


TU QUOQUE!
posted by gertzedek at 12:19 PM on March 6, 2013


The U.S. has supported horrible regimes in the Mideast to (1) keep access to oil

Well that's very noble of the U.S.

Heh. Venezuela. Oil. Check!

But hey, didn't we overthrow democracy in Iran in order to install a monarch - due to oil? We "support horrible regimes", but we also install "horrible regimes". But oil! so everything is justified in our noble goals.

Castro should understand, if you don't. He paired up with the Soviets for even longer.

I wonder why. Couldn't have anything do do with the U.S. gunning for him because he didn't want to sell out his country to the U.S. (and the mafia), unlike Batista, could it?

Gee, first I come to murder you, and when in desperation you turn to the only person able to protect you - unfortunately another thug - I point to your associates as proof of your low character and how you deserve to be murdered.

I guess I don't buy the premise that only citizens of pure countries can criticize others.

Quite. First I'll burn down your house, and then I'll criticize you for living in squalor. After all, my being at fault, should never prevent objective criticism. And objectively, you are living in squalor.
posted by VikingSword at 12:27 PM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sorry, I don't buy that bullshit. If you're killing people for access to oil, the problem is not that "international politics is a dirty business." The problem is that you have built infrastructure that depends on resources that do not exist in your own country, and murdering innocent people to maintain access is not a valid justification.

Or would you accept China invading Mexico for access to arable land?

Furthermore, most American oil is coming from the Western Hemisphere and will continue to shift towards safer access in Canada and the North Atlantic (and Venezuela if we can get one of our assets installed.). Our domination of ME politics is to have veto power over China and Russia, as the paranoid delusions of the security state continue to find conspiracies against the United States where none exist. That's why the Iranian armed forces of powerboats and model jets is listed as a threat to national security.
posted by tripping daisy at 12:36 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


moorooka: "You must be glad you finally found the perfect explanation for that one, empath!

*eyes roll into back of head*
"

---------
So ... One thing I don't get is why Joe in Australia can't take the words of the people who actually ARE believing in Chavez as to what he means, instead of his enemies? In other words, the people who support Chavez, the ones who he generally is speaking to (right? He's a demagogue? He only speaks to his ignorant supporters, right?) So when those poor stupid leftists interpret his meaning completely differently and in the light that the Jewish leadership interprets, somehow it's utterly wrong... Because, surely,the best way to interpret someone is listening to the voices that are against their world view. That's why, when I want to find out about Satanism, I go to Christians, When I want to learn about Abortion Rights, I go to the Pro-Life Movement. When I want to learn about Clean Energy, I go to the Coal Companies.

When I read it, yes, the term "minorities" is troubling. Later on the term "a minority" is used, and that seemed more appropriate. However, the linked article where they discuss the other interpretations is actually what I read it as (again - aside from that one troubling turn of phrase). The "minority" is the elite, it doesn't have to be "The Jews" (I shudder even typing that)...

Why is it that you so readily take one small term and turn it into this anti-semitic thing out of context with every other single word in that section? The other thing I wonder is whether or not the context is missing in translation. It may or may not be, I don't know. But as I read it, seems to me it's how the Jewish Leaders in Venezuela interpreted it as well.

But, why I quoted Moorooka is because while looking for something more substantive on that quote, I found this post on Lenin's Tomb... Moorooka was replying to empath who said:
That probably explains why a woman (and Ortega supporter) I went on a date with in Nicaragua told me with a straight face: "Of course, I don't blame you for what your government does -- everyone knows that the Jews and the Freemasons control everything." She seemed kind of taken aback that I disagreed with that, and thought I was terribly naive.
And if you read the link I just posted to Lenin's Tomb you find the following quip from a Contra Leader:

Edgar Chomorro recalled a meeting with three CIA officers in the spring of 1983 to discuss ways of promoting the contras inside the United States. One propaganda idea was to target American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic. According to Chamorro, the CIA officers "said that the media was controlled by Jews and if we could show that Jews were being persecuted it would help a lot."
The CIA introduced the anti-Semitic slur. The rather sick irony is that it is the CIA which backed anti-Semitic forces, not just in Latin America but in most of its counter-insurgency wars - from ex-Nazi Argentinian generals in Nicaragua to the use of General Reinhard Gehlen in Europe after the Second World War.
posted by symbioid at 12:53 PM on March 6, 2013


Did you actually read what I wrote? I wasn't justifying what the U.S. does. I was providing some explanation, as I understand things. I'm not aware of any country that only allies itself with good actors. Certainly, Cuba and Venezuela are willing to make alliances with thuggish regimes. Chavez's praises for Bashar al-Assad were particulalry silly.

If Chavez jails a judge for issuing a verdict with which he does not agree, I believe it is fine to criticize him for doing so. I don't see how the U.S. is to blame for the jailing and I don't see why U.S. actions in Iran in the 50s make my criticism illegitimate.

Nor do I see why it is wrong to criticize Castro. He had gay people rounded up and put in corrective labor camps. Why was that okay? How is it the fault of the U.S.? Also, I wouldn't be too sure that Castro only allied himself with the Soviets solely to have a counterweight to the U.S. (though that obviously was a big factor); he seems to be a genuine believer in that sort of one-party state form of communism with the secret police, political prisoners, camps, censorship, and other associated tyrranies.

I happen to think some criticims of Chavez goes too far, but I don't believe the very act of daring to criticise him is inherently illegitimate.
posted by Area Man at 12:53 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


First I'll burn down your house, and then I'll criticize you for living in squalor. After all, my being at fault, should never prevent objective criticism. And objectively, you are living in squalor.

That's beautiful, VikingSword. Thank you.
posted by fredludd at 12:53 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter has been moving systematically rightwards in the decade+ that I've been here, but the pace increased dramatically in the last four years.

Raise your hand if you remember Paris Paramus.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:02 PM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not aware of any country that only allies itself with good actors

Don't try and walk the bullshit back. Denmark does not ally itself with anyone like Trujillo or Mubarak because they have learned to live within their means and accept that the possibility of war is a better choice than endless war which pretends to prevent escalation. America has for decades chosen low intensity guerilla style actions that have killed hundreds of thousands of people, all while claiming that the possibilities that they imagine inside of their twisted minds would be much worse.

Well, of course! If you are afraid that Miami is going to fall to the Cuban military then you need to leave your desk at the Pentagon and get some fucking therapy. I'm not terrified of anyone like Ahmadinejad or Putin or the Muslim Brotherhood because I have faith in the US military's ability to really blow shit up. What they aren't good at is managing the futures of other nations because no one is. National sovereignty is there for a reason.

Nor do I see why it is wrong to criticize Castro. He had gay people rounded up and put in corrective labor camps. Why was that okay? How is it the fault of the U.S.?

It isn't. But to complain about that and then say nothing about Saudi Arabia beheading people last year for sodomy and witchcraft is a towering hypocrisy that the rest of the world sees with clear eyes.

I am doing my best not to snark everything up, but when your dearest ally is beheading people for being gay, and your worst enemy has the same views of half of Texas Republicans, your priorities are FUCKED UP.
posted by tripping daisy at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


If Chavez jails a judge for issuing a verdict with which he does not agree, I believe it is fine to criticize him for doing so. I don't see how the U.S. is to blame for the jailing and I don't see why U.S. actions in Iran in the 50s make my criticism illegitimate.

The U.S. is a superpower. When we continually plot and subvert and sabotage - our targets might become somewhat paranoid - after all, they can't even trust the cigars they smoke. Is it in the least surprising when the hounded targets see plots where there may be none, and go overboard on arrests, or lash out against innocent bystanders? Every security service makes mistakes - and are especially prone to doing so, when the cost of dismissing a suspicion might be death. That by no means excuses the abuses and overreach, but when you have wolves circling your home, and you shoot at that shape suddenly lunging at the window it is a tragedy when an innocent visitor is shot rather than a wolf. No question Chavez committed crimes quite apart from any role of the U.S., but we should not forget the context of constant non-stop baiting and paranoia we've created.

Nor do I see why it is wrong to criticize Castro. He had gay people rounded up and put in corrective labor camps. Why was that okay? How is it the fault of the U.S.?

Indeed that was profoundly wrong. And Castro belatedly acknowledged it as such. That does not absolve him from those crimes - nor do any apologies for our own persecution of gay people (including prison), those were horrible unenlightened times almost everywhere on earth, with various degrees of persecution (Cuba being notably bad in this hemisphere). Again, there are no excuses for that - none, period. This is an absolute evil record that Castro is 100% responsible for. Castro committed many crimes, and this was one of them. Not everything is the fault of the U.S.. One hopes that we are making progress, even if it can't atone for the crimes of the past - acknowledgment of the crime is a step forward, and one we hope all politicians the world over - including the U.S. would one day make.

And I do not believe that no country being without fault, excuses any and all crimes. Some countries are worse than others... like Venezuela! - isn't that what the U.S. claims? It is one thing to criticize a country or leaders for crimes, but it's a bit rich when we've created the very ground conditions for those crimes.
posted by VikingSword at 1:26 PM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


What bullshit am I walking back? I'm starting to get confused. I said that the U.S. has supported "horrible" regimes and then provided a couple of reasons why it had done so. I said politics was a dirty buisness, said again that the U.S. has had and will have unsavory alliances, and said something about how Castro himself would understand. I don't see how that's inconsistent with what I later wrote.

As for proportionate criticims, that's a fair point. I did not, in fact, post anything on Metafilter criticising Saudi Arabia for beheading gay people. I thought it was horrible, but I don't remember participating in a thread on that topic. As for the rest of the world's and towering hypocrisy, I've noticed the rest of the world is pretty eager to criticize Israel while ignoring what happens in Tibet. This sort of hyprocisy is not as US-specific as you seem to imagine.

As for Denmark, they are a Nato ally and have fought alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I'm not sure they are the best example to use of a country not engaged in endless war. Much of Europe participates and relies upon the US's broader strategic efforts. Maybe Sweden is a better fit for your point, though you might want to learn about their arms exports.
posted by Area Man at 1:32 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're equating the outright funding of Mubarak and Trujillo's military with advanced weaponry and training in guerrilla methods of torture and assassination to the political realities of being a Western nation at the front door of Russia (and at the mercy of US politics), I don't think that's a reasonable comparison. I'm not asking for ideological purity. I'm asking for reasonable choices, and hell, I was cheering Bush after the towers fell just as everyone else was (at least for a few weeks.) When the bombs started to fall and the plans for Iraq started getting tossed around, the sinking feeling of being deceived yet again was inescapable.

Was Denmark being unreasonable in thinking terrorism was a threat after 9/11? No, I don't think that's unreasonable. Is that the same thing as helping Egypt murder their dissidents and throwing in some of our collected heads for torture tours excusable in the same way? That's something you have to answer for yourself.

The list of dictators directly supported by the United States is pages long. The same cannot be said about any other nation on earth. But instead of getting dragged into the same argument, I'd much prefer that we simply stop killing people for access and power and stop pretending that using extreme forms of violence in other nations is excusable for any reason. It's unjust, counterproductive, and ultimately more dangerous to our national security. No amount of rationalizing by parasites of the security state will change those facts.
posted by tripping daisy at 1:46 PM on March 6, 2013


Symbioid asked: So ... One thing I don't get is why Joe in Australia can't take the words of the people who actually ARE believing in Chavez as to what he means, instead of his enemies? [...] So when those poor stupid leftists interpret his meaning completely differently and in the light that the Jewish leadership interprets, somehow it's utterly wrong...

That's a fair question, but this statement really can't be read in any inoffensive way. A minority group, "descendants of the same people that crucified Christ", who have "taken control of the riches of the world"? Come on. He's talking about Jews. I read the article you pointed to, but it's not much of a refutation: it says "well, the CIA did it too" (which they may have, but so what) and that Chavez also identified these people as being "the descendants of those who expelled Bolivar from here", which is historically inaccurate if applied to Jews. Yes, well, it's also historically inaccurate to say that Jews are "descendants of the same people that crucified Christ" and have "taken control of the riches of the world". Anti-Semitic slurs are not known for their accuracy.

The reason I identified that response by Venezuelan Jews as being interesting was that it is surprising, in light of their own repeated complaints about official antisemitism. It wasn't much of a refutation, more "please don't interfere, we have enough problems". One of the Wikileaked cables apparently refers to a 2009 discussion with Venezuelan Jewish leaders which supports that interpretation, and it is also supported by the astonishing fact that half the Jewish community left the country within ten or so years after he came to power.

Finally, as further evidence for Chavez's conflation of Jews and "Zionists" with everyone else he disliked, look at last year's election campaign. State media described his opponent Henrique Capriles as a Jew and a Zionist - Zionism being, you understand, sufficiently horrible to exclude someone from decent society. The point isn't so much whether Capriles is Jewish or not (he's actually a practicing Catholic) but that Chavez's tame press thought it was a good way to attack him. Here's the Huffington Post on it, and to give you a feel for the context of the allegations here's some conspiracy site that appears to have Chavista sympathies.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:54 PM on March 6, 2013


I'm by no means an expert on Chavez, but from what I can tell A) He did some good for the poor and underprivileged in Venezuela. B) His criticisms of the US were often on the mark, but were sometimes wildly unhinged C) He cozied up to dictators and mass murderers when it was convenient for him to do so and D) While he was elected democratically, the elections process in Venezuela wasn't exactly a paragon of openness and fairness, nor is the media entirely free (both for and against him).

I guess what I'm saying is that it seems like he was a complicated man who accomplished good things in often terrible ways, but possibly necessary ways.
posted by empath at 7:06 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember Hugos failed first coup, I was in college and the CSM had a good piece on the situation. I remember thinking 'another dead special OP wanna-be.'

well empath the ends do not justify the possibly necessary ways.
posted by clavdivs at 6:49 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very late to ths thread but I would never leave it uncommentated on.
Don Hugo, and I give him an honorific he deserves, played dirty pool. But then you just have to look at his opponents. That is not to justify his ways , just to state a fact.
I am posting this from Buenos Aires where there are posters in the street lamenting and honoring his passing. Part of the problem here in Metafilter is that very few people have any idea of what poverty is and only a handful read or listen to non english news.
You have little or no idea how much America as a nation is loathed for its constant arrogance and meddling and intervention.
Chavez hauled a large percentage of the masses out of dire fuck all poverty in a country previously ruled over by the all powerful "latifundistas" and their cronies both at home and abroard.
Impossibilities for these people such as clean water, basic medical care and some sort of education began to be possible. It was a start on the road to being regarded as a human being and not a possession or mere worker ant.
I am no apologist for Chavez who was mad as the proverbial march hare, with his dream of greater Bolivia after his hero Simon Bolivar. He delighted in tweaking the nose of those who thought they knew best. He was and is a hero to a vast amount of people to whom he gave some sort of hope.
For this he will go down in history, and also as the flawed revolutionary that he was. Next time you sneer at the poor and impoverished for their poor political judgement just stop and think what life would be like if you had no choice and were dictated to only by the wealthy who had no interest in you, your family, or your welfare.
A very complicated man with an ego the size of the sun, but I truely believe he loved the Venezuelan masses and they in turn loved him.
Adios Don Hugo.

.
posted by adamvasco at 3:36 PM on March 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, i really encourage people who don't understand why people would follow a guy like that to spend some time among the really poor in Latin America. It's an eye opening experience. There are people who live in currogated-tin shacks just slapped together on the side of a mountain, carrying huge loads of fire wood on their back, or working in foreign own sweatshops making a dollar or so a day sewing $100 pairs of jeans, where the countryside is swarming with drug runners and bandits, who don't even have enough money for a donkey, let alone a cellphone or a college degree, in the same country where you have modern shopping malls, big screen tvs, designer clothes, and fancy cars in the big cities, and fat American tourists are wandering around with smart phones and fat wallets asking about "vegetarian options" when most people are lucky to be able to afford meat at all and dropping more money there in a day than they make in a month. Where the police are as likely to rob you as help you, and there is a pretty significant chance the military murdered your family or disappeared a relative who had been agitating for a more fair economy or indigenous rights. You really don't know unless you've heard the people tell you their stories from their own mouths. And, I heard the other side, to, btw, talking to wealthy Spanish-descended locals who told me that the Indians were nothing but poor, ignorant savages and why would I want to learn Spanish from them, who can't even speak it properly.

If you think income inequality is a problem in the US, you really have no idea. If I was an indigenous poor person in one of those countries, I'd probably follow a guy like Chavez or Ortega or Eva Morales to the ends of the earth, if they promised any kind of change at all. If any where on earth needed a revolution, it was Latin America.

So, while I don't necessarily agree with all of his methods, I'm not going to sit here in comfort, eating a Big Mac telling these people that they should be nicer about how they claw their way out of oppression and poverty.
posted by empath at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Chavez: Despot or Saint?

In its 14 years in power, Chavez's administration was at once authoritarian and democratic, crudely demagogic and genuinely participatory. History is messy like that.
posted by mediated self at 9:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 'free speech' thing about the TV stations has been bugging me. I wonder if the US government would remove the broadcasting licence of a television station if they participated in a military coup?

RCTV wasn't even shut down when the state refused to renew its licence in 2007 (FIVE years after it supported a coup against the government), it kept broadcasting as a satellite channel for several years (claiming it was an international station) until a court judged that as its content was 90% domestic-related, it could not claim that status.

Ofcom would undoubtedly have shut them down in the UK even without the coup issue, following fairness and accuracy regulations here.

This Reporters Without Borders article covers the excesses of both sides and has this interesting quote:

it is clear that [the private press] did paradoxically endorse a government [the 2002 coup regime] which in just 48 hours carried out a more draconian crackdown on the pro-Chávez press than anything Chávez had ever done to the privately-owned press.

It's the double standards of a lot of comments that drives me insane. He is judged to a standard to which none of his predecessors (or those who ousted him in 2002) are held.
posted by knapah at 5:02 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tariq Ali: Hugo Chávez and me.
The late president of Venezuela, who I have met many times, will be remembered by his supporters as a lover of literature, a fiery speaker and a man who fought for his people and won.
Hugo Chávez's life and legacy – a guide to the best of the web.
posted by adamvasco at 5:11 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd probably follow a guy like Chavez or Ortega or Eva Morales to the ends of the earth, if they promised any kind of change at all. If any where on earth needed a revolution, it was Latin America.

"For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.

With oversight institutions neutered, the president now runs the country as a personal fief: expropriating businesses on a whim and deciding who goes to jail. Judges who rule against the government’s wishes are routinely fired, and one has even been jailed. Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative."

yes, follow blindly.
posted by clavdivs at 6:48 AM on March 8, 2013


Chávez-style socialism looks like the worst of both worlds: both more authoritarian and less effective at reducing poverty than the Brazilian alternative

Toro's hardly an unbiased observer.

Anyway, it's a stretch to argue that the Brazilian alternative was a Venezuelan alternative at the time: Lula was elected in 2002, remember, six months after the coup attempt in Caracas. That goes back to the idea of Chavez as a transitional figure, and the test of Chavismo is whether it can evolve into something closer to the newer left-wing governments elsewhere in the region.
posted by holgate at 7:36 AM on March 8, 2013


For all of Mr. Chávez’s talk of radical transformation, Venezuela’s child mortality and adult literacy statistics have not improved any faster under his government than they did over the several decades before he rose to power.


SollosQ and Homeboy Trouble both posted upthread explaining why that statement is misleading (or, less charitably, false).

yes, follow blindly.

Says the person citing a NY Times op-ed? By a guy with a degree from the LSE?
posted by junco at 7:15 PM on March 8, 2013


AP reporter Pamela Simpson rips into Chavez for "merely" reducing poverty, not building the world's tallest buildling:
Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.
posted by Harald74 at 12:46 AM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I see that nonsense from Pamela Simpson has been taken down. So just for posterity here it is together with a chart (NACLA, 10/8/12) based on World Bank poverty stats–showing the proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years. (For comparison purposes, there's a similar stat for Brazil, which made substantial but less dramatic progress against poverty over the same time period.)
clavdivs would you like to reform your argument above?
$2 a day. Think about it. How many people here would even know what to spend only $2 on? let alone subsist.
Again I do not praise Chavez's methods but his results speak for themselves also the fact that throughout Central and S. America yesterday, flags on government buildings were flying at half mast. But then when you are the only person in step it is frequequently difficult to see things otherwise; after all it's just a bunch of poor semi literate foreign brown people am I rite?.
posted by adamvasco at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2013


I stayed in a village for a few weeks where about $2-3 a day was the average income. It makes for amusing pictures when you're two feet taller than every person in town, until you consider that it's because of malnutrition. They live on rice, tortillas and beans- in a place that exports produce to the US year around. Clean bottled water is everywhere, but consider what percentage of your income that would be and then also consider that there is no clean water from the faucets, and that fresh water lakes and rivers are almost all entirely polluted. They make their clothes by hand, and it's often their most expensive possession.

Then think about the fact that if they agitate for change, or run people for office to represent them, they get hassled (at best) by police, or killed at worst. And then think about the fact that some of these families manage to save up the thousands of dollars it takes to send one family member with a coyote to try and get them to the US, only for them to die in the desert or be turned away at the border.

Seriously, go talk to these people some time. These "leftist radicals". Live there and try to forget that you have a passport and a bank account that lets you escape the charmingly rustic conditions that they were born into and will never leave. Tell them that they should be nicer to the American oil companies and fruit companies and textile companies that exploit them for cheap labor, or just want them to get out of the way so they can 'develop' their land.
posted by empath at 9:37 AM on March 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


yes, follow blindly.

Says the person citing a NY Times op-ed? By a guy with a degree from the LSE?
Source: Instituto Venezuela de los Seguros Sociales

Huh.

"Chavez’s obsessive anti-Americanism compelled him to associate with U.S. competitors such as China (loans and technology for oil) and Russia (oil and arms) and with anti-democratic rogue leaders and insurgent and terrorist organizations (such as Hezbollah). He opposed NATO intervention in Libya and rendered support for the despotic Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The full range of Venezuela’s ties with Iran—Chavez’s “axis of unity”—is hidden from public scrutiny, but include undetermined degrees of military and security cooperation. In the age of globalized criminal and terrorist networks, the absence of accountability and transparency in the regime, coupled with anti-American belligerency, still poses a threat to U.S. security."

I'm willing to bet anyone of us potential dictators would improve the conditions of the poor.
posted by clavdivs at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2013


clav as you well know The Heritage Foundation is well to the right of anywhere and cheered on and worked with Reagan for the exploitation of Latin America.
Why does America have the right to exploit workers / peasants in another country?
The US tried to engineer a coup against Chavez, no wonder he regarded the US state as his enemy. It is hardly surprising that he allied himself with US enemies probably thinking along the lines of death by a thousand cuts.
Every now and then as history has shown a country needs a strongman and that is what he was for his people.
What is now needed is someone to continue the revolution of bringing the poor more into the median society and to continue to weaken the hold of the oliagarchy without spiralling into violence. Even Free Venezuela admits the good achieved by Chavez did before talking about his poisoned legacy.
posted by adamvasco at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2013


So apparently Chavez's body is to embalmed and then put on permanent display, similar to Lenin, Mao Zedong and Ferdinand Marcos.
posted by dragoon at 5:31 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


wow, chunks of my post are gone. Someone countered with data from CEPR. Seems all their data comes from

Source: Banco Central de Venezuela
INEC
Source: Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (which i accept)
Source: SISOV
Source: Ministerio del P.P. para la Educación Universitaria

and on


"In the first half of 2010 Venezuela faced the prospect of lengthy nationwide blackouts when its main hydroelectric power plant - which provides more than 35% of the country's electricity - nearly shut down. In May 2010, CHAVEZ closed the unofficial foreign exchange market - the "parallel market" - in an effort to stem inflation and slow the currency's depreciation. In June 2010, the government created the "Transaction System for Foreign Currency Denominated Securities" to replace the "parallel" market. In December 2010, CHAVEZ eliminated the dual exchange rate system and unified the exchange rate at 4.3 bolivars per dollar. In January 2011, CHAVEZ announced the second devaluation of the bolivar within twelve months. In December 2010, the National Assembly passed a package of five organic laws designed to complete the transformation of the Venezuelan economy in line with CHAVEZ's vision of 21st century socialism. In 2012, Venezuela continued to wrestle with a housing crisis, high inflation, an electricity crisis, and rolling food and goods shortages - all of which were fallout from the government's unorthodox economic policies. The budget deficit for the entire government reached 17% of GDP in 2012, and public debt as a percent of GDP climbed steeply to 49%, despite record oil prices."
posted by clavdivs at 11:50 AM on March 10, 2013


Every now and then as history has shown a country needs a strongman and that is what he was for his people.

Come on adam, HE KEPT SELLING US OIL! and waged his puggy little finger in our face acting like a cross between Cataline and Bolivar. Doesn't take a strongman to do that. Sulphur indeed.

revolution of bringing the poor more into the median society and to continue to weaken the hold of the oliagarchy without spiralling into violence
see, thats the trick. How do you transform the poors plight economically without creating a median that is modelled on oliagarchy?
posted by clavdivs at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2013


Interesting graphs up there clavdivs. Thanks.
The Guardian has an interesting 40 year timeline of the Latin American left. No prizes for guessing who did most to oppose them.
The Colombian writer Hector Abad writes To speak of 'the left' in Latin America, post-Chávez, makes no sense. It has the same nuanced complexity as the continent. Of course Chavez medddled in Colombia supporting Farc and giving the fighters safe havens just inside the Venezuelan border so he was not the Colombian's best friend either.
I think now that the great disparencies in wealth have been partly dissipated that a Brazilian model might be the most likely to now work. Of course that isn't perfect either. Corruption being the major problem.
posted by adamvasco at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2013


Every Hugo Chávez obituary in the Western press.

While not going so far as to actually do anything remotely dictatorial, Chávez was far from a democratic leader. Instead of competing honestly in elections, he provided services and raised the standard of living for the people of Venezuela, ensuring their gratitude and thereby gaining an unfair advantage at the polls. Much of the funds for this insidious election tactic of ‘making things better’ were rerouted from the newly nationalised oilfields: through this wanton kleptocracy, billions of petrodollars were withheld from deserving rich white people. Under his rule, the murder rate soared; a tend analysts have linked to his predilection for riding round Caracas slums at night and picking off pedestrians with a hunting rifle.

Absolutely nothing happened in April of 2002

posted by Jakey at 4:31 PM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love Brazil.
posted by clavdivs at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2013


Yes, but it was ruined by the producers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:53 AM on March 12, 2013






No. No he did not.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:22 PM on March 14, 2013


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