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By Ben Cohen
Hugo Chavez became a U.S bogeyman primarily
because he refused to make the ‘structural adjustments’ to Venezuela’s
economy the U.S dictated to the rest of Latin America. Having seen the
by neo-liberalism, Chavez has forged a new type of socialism that has
had dramatic effects on poverty and inequality. There is no doubt that
Chavez has many faults – his personality cult and domination of the
media is clearly not good for democracy, and there are huge problems
with crime that Chavez has failed to deal with. But he has never
challenged the will of voters
whenever an election has come up, and has accepted term limits on his
Presidency (which is not the case in countries like Britain).
In an interesting and balanced article on Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, the Guardian
reports on Chavez’s remarkable accomplishments, and his failures.
Economically, there is no doubt that the country is in much better
Today a third of the population is classified as poor, compared with
half in 1998. Extreme poverty is said to have tumbled even more
dramatically, from 42% to 9.5%. Inequality narrowed and Venezuela rose
up the UN’s human development index. Social programmes known as
“missions” widened access to health and education and reduced
illiteracy. The economy ballooned by 526%, unemployment was halved to
6% and Venezuela instituted Latin America’s highest minimum wage at
$372 (£254.80) a month.
However, the state of the countries infrastructure and social problems is not so good:
Corruption and bureaucratic chaos – ministers rotated with bewildering
frequency – atrophied infrastructure and public services. Roads and
hospitals deteriorated, a housing shortage worsened and jails remained
shockingly overcrowded and violent. Some prisoners languish for years
It will be interesting to see what Obama’s relationship with Chavez
will look like, and whether Obama will continue to refer to him as a
dictator as his predecessor did. The region is changing, and leftist
movements are spreading quickly. Whatever the U.S may think, it must
come to accept the new reality in Latin America. And that means dealing
with Hugo Chavez.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.