Friday, March 08, 2013

Extra Large Triple Wide Sized Life

I have run into so much misperception and criticism of Hugo Chavez in discussions about his real accomplishments and legacy after his death in my daily voyages on the internet, I felt compelled to add a few centimes worth of my thoughts. I even saw a highly emotional and angry Daniel Cohn-Bendit deliver a vitriolic critique of Chavez on French television the day after Chavez died in a discussion of his legacy. Cohn-Bendit is a passionate, emotional humanist in his own right, but I felt he had lost sight of the forces that made Chavez and colored his perceptions.
There was a great editorial in The New York Times on March 6, written by the Brazilian President, Luiz Ignacio Lula which puts Chavez' accomplishments and his legacy in Latin America in a much more reasoned and rational light. A quote from Lula's editorial:
"Mr. Chávez’s social campaigns, especially in the areas of public health, housing and education, succeeded in improving the standard of living of tens of millions of Venezuelans.
One need not agree with everything Mr. Chávez said or did. There is no denying that he was a controversial, often polarizing, figure, one who never fled from debate and for whom no topic was taboo. I must admit I often felt that it would have been more prudent for Mr. Chávez not to have said all that he did. But this was a personal characteristic of his that should not, even from afar, discredit his qualities.
One might also disagree with Mr. Chávez’s ideology, and a political style that his critics viewed as autocratic. He did not make easy political choices and he never wavered in his decisions.
However, no remotely honest person, not even his fiercest opponent, can deny the level of camaraderie, of trust and even of love that Mr. Chávez felt for the poor of Venezuela and for the cause of Latin American integration. Of the many power brokers and political leaders I have met in my life, few have believed so much in the unity of our continent and its diverse peoples — indigenous Indians, descendants of Europeans and Africans, recent immigrants — as he did.

Fifty years ago, at the height of its imperial power, Washington persuaded all the member nations of the Organization of American States, with the brave exception of Mexico, to expel Cuba from its ranks.
Today, the OAS is moribund, replaced by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Cuba is currently chair of this continent-wide organization while the increasingly isolated U.S. has been excluded.
What’s significant about CELAC, as it’s known by its Spanish initials, is that both progressive and conservative governments hastened to join this organization in which the U.S. empire would have no say. Whether left or right, they agreed that their future lay in their own independence and unity. CELAC was just one of the dreams that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela brought to reality.
His other great accomplishment was to lift millions of his own people out of poverty and powerlessness. To do this, he obviously had to brave the wrath of the multinationals and their comprador allies who were reaping billions from Venezuela’s oil while millions went hungry.
The empire threw everything short of invasion at him: coup plots, sabotage, strikes by the bosses, endless assassination attempts. It even put up candidates for election. But each assault on the revolution only made it stronger.
Venezuela still has huge problems: crime,entrenched bureaucracy and the ever looming counter-revolution. It’s attempting to create a real socialist democracy at home while forging unity in the hemisphere. No one knows how far Venezuela will go towards realizing Chavez’s vision for his country and his continent. But after 14 years, the revolution has made solid gains and put down deep roots. Latin America has, by and large, broken free of the empire’s cruel grip.
I believe that people and movements make history, so I’m not one for the ‘great man’ theory. Still, it cannot be doubted that leaders who really change things do occasionally appear. Latin America had Bolivar, Juarez and Marti. Chavez will be remembered alongside them.
For a fuller view of Hugo Chavez’ legacy and Venezuela’s prospects, I’ve added this and this link from CEPR, one of the best sources for honest economic news we have.

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