Hugo Chavez is the most controversial head of state in the world and also the most maligned. I believe that a man should be judged for what he does, or attempts to do, not by what he says, or what others say about him. All leaders make promises in order to get elected, few ever do what they promised, and many don’t even make the attempt. If we are ignorant enough to use Thomas Jefferson’s definition of democracy, and reverse the real meaning of the word, then we could call Hugo Chavez the undemocratic leader of a mob. Hugo Chavez was born the son of working class parents, and grew up in poverty living with his grandmother; he was first elected by middle class working people, and won with a huge majority.
It seems unlikely that a would be dictator’s first major undertaking after being elected would be to have the people rewrite the constitution, replacing one written by elites that like most constitutions was for their personal benefit. It also seems odd that he got rid of the presidential limo and donated his princely presidential salary to benefit the poor. Most dictators only travel in armoured limousines and flaunt their wealth. The photos we see of Chavez show him driving a jeep, riding on the back of trucks with the people, or mingling with people on the street; strange behaviour for a dictator, or even a president.
Hugo Chavez’s election promise was to work for the benefit of the working poor majority who were living in poverty. Venezuela was a wealthy country due to natural resources, mainly oil, but the wealth was all going into the coffers of the elites, and multi national oil, and mining companies. By nationalizing oil Hugo Chavez has been able to eradicate illiteracy, provide free health care, education, pensions, and numerous other social programs. Venezuela is also the refuge of four and a half million Colombian refugees, acknowledged by the UN as the largest refugee problem in the world, who are supported by the government of Hugo Chavez. Colombian refugees are still entering Venezuela in the hundreds every day, and coming from the drug producing capital of the Americas that poses the problem of weeding out smugglers, drug dealers, and other criminals from Colombia that he is accused of harbouring. Nationalization of natural resources has definitely made him a dictator in the opinions of the corporate elites, but a hero to his people and most of the Colombians who have found refuge in Venezuela.
The new Venezuelan constitution not only contains some eighteen clauses on peoples rights it also laid the groundwork for the development of the first real democratic government in the world since ancient Greece. As a result recognition of the need for a new constitution spread to other countries and Bolivia soon followed Venezuela, rejecting the old political parties and electing a peoples’ native president. Since then the people of Honduras were denied the right to a new constitution by a coup that was backed by the US and Canada. The latest demands for new constitutions are coming from the people of Tunisia who just ran their dictator out of the country. Yemenis, Egyptians, and Algerians are following the Tunisians lead demanding that their leaders step down. Many peoples in the world are becoming aware of how they have been manipulated and kept down by ruling elites, oligarchs, and dictators; and that the only path to real democracy and freedom is through a new constitution, and real democracy.
The propaganda calling Hugo Chavez a dictator or even a would be dictator is coming from elites not just in Venezuela but many countries around the world with sham democracies that are terrified of being exposed and facing a revolution. Most western countries, like the US, were never intended to be democratic. The word democracy does not appear in the US constitution for very good reason; As Thomas Jefferson, the slave owning third president and co-writer of the US constitution said: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
All depots, dictators, oligarchs, and elites fear of rule by the people. The word democracy comes from ancient Greece and means: Rule by and for the people, directly, not through representatives, or political parties. This is referred to as direct democracy as opposed to representative democracy. There can be no rule by and for the people under representative electoral systems because local representatives seldom have any say in the running of the country. Referendums are an example of direct democracy in action and are now used regularly in Venezuela to decide major issues. The president of Venezuela is elected by a referendum, not as the leader of a political party and is subject to recall by referendum as are all elected representatives in Venezuela under the new constitution; these are real steps toward democracy where the people choose their representatives as individuals; not candidates selected by party elites.
Creating a real democracy can not be legislated it is something that the people have to learn and do themselves. Hugo Chavez has been providing the people with the tools, education, and the support of his government. The people have to take over the country from the bottom up and eliminate the bureaucracy as they advance. Of course the bureaucrats are not willing to see their power and positions abolished so it is not an easy task for the people who have to learn as they go along, and there will be lots of trials and errors along the way. This is the mob rule that Thomas Jefferson feared; government by and for the people. The people form communal councils that decide on their priorities through consensus and are able to get funding directly from the national government. Representatives are elected for two-year terms and can be recalled at any time. Some of the communal councils formed have advanced to the city level, and must now go on to the state level.
The right wing extremists in the US who now claim that Hugo Chavez is the greatest threat in the world to the US interests are right in so far as his introduction of direct democracy is a threat to the US elites and the government but certainly no threat to the people of the US.
Eliminating Hugo Chavez or attacking and trying to occupy Venezuela would not stop the peoples’ movements throughout Latin America, North Africa, or the Middle East. The age-old desire for real freedom and real democracy can never be stopped. Considering Venezuela a military threat to any country is laughable. The Venezuelan military is much smaller than that of several of its neighbours. It is true that Hugo Chavez is training a huge militia but it is not being trained to support the regular military units, but is being trained for guerrilla warfare in the event of an invasion; he has also started training and arming peasant militias for self defence in the countryside where peasant leaders are still being murdered, and people intimidated by thugs hired by large property owners. Arming the people doesn’t sound to me like anything a dictator would do; but it does sound like giving the people the means to defend their new freedoms and developing democracy.
Of course now that Venezuela has the largest certified oil reserves in the world the US hawks will be busier than ever promoting a war and Hugo’s peasant army, and militia may need all the training and weapons they can get.
Like most countries in Latin America, Venezuela was plagued with crime, and corruption that extended through the police and judicial system. Removing and prosecuting corrupt judges has caused great controversy. Building a federal police force that is ethical and humane just began two years ago, and is being trained in a new facility that teaches the constitution, peoples’ rights, and their duties. This new police force had grown to 4,222 officers at the end of 2010, and had substantially reduced crime in the areas the officers were deployed. The new police force like the army is being taught to protect the people not just the elites, and property.
Banks and businesses that were corrupt have been nationalized to protect the public, and many former owners have fled to the US to avoid criminal proceedings and find a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains. These elite criminal elements all scream dictatorship and seek to overthrow the government.
I believe that in the future the 21st century will become known as the information age when many emperors lost their clothes. I hope it also becomes known as the century that freedom and democracy returned to the earth. The advancements in communications made possible through new technology since the turn of the century have already enabled people to stop coups in progress, coordinate resistance, bring down governments, and become informed free of corporate propaganda and control.
In Venezuela alone millions of people have gained access to computers and the world-wide-web. Last year more than a million people were trained in computing in Venezuelan internet Infocentros. Domestic access to the internet increased by 242,993 homes last year, for a total of 1,351,269 connections, an increase of 22%. A third of the population now have access to internet in their homes, compared to 3% before Chavez was elected. The “Canaima” program that provides school children with mini laptops has supplied 875,000 computers to first and second grade students, and this year the government is projecting handing out 500,000 laptops to third grade students. In the past year the government expanded the country’s satellite network, the first satellite in Latin America dedicated to public broadcasting, by installing 728 satellite antennas. According to the latest information posted in Vheadline.com “Venezuela provides free education to more than four million students at the primary level, more than two millions in high school, and an equal number of university students, as well as those who benefit from the Sucre and Ribas educational programs”. With a population of just over 28 million in 2008 eight million students is close to a thirty percent of the population.
Hugo Chavez could rightly be accused of being too humanitarian, or too generous for providing poor US citizens in the New England States and Alaska with cheap heating oil reduced in price by 40%, or providing subsidised fares to seniors using public transit in London England. He is already widely criticized for selling oil at greatly reduced prices to sister countries in Latin America because this has caused a big loss of profits to major international oil companies. He is also guilty of trading oil to other countries in trade for services or products instead of dollars. All these acts are very damaging to corporate capitalist profits, and to add insult to injury Venezuela’s nationalized oil company contributes its’ profits to social programs in Venezuela; and it these profits that enable Venezuelans to enjoy free health care, education, and many other social programs. The people in many countries would like their natural resources to be used the same way; no doubt the millions of people in the US with no health care would too.
When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans Hugo Chavez offered to send help but Bush refused Venezuelan aid and sent in the army instead. Venezuela was one of the first countries to land aid and a rescue team in Haiti before the US army got there to shut down the airport and occupy the country. During the disaster caused by heavy rains in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez opened up the presidential palace as well as many public buildings to provide shelter to victims who lost their homes. Can you imagine such a thing happening in another country? We don’t have to wonder why the people support Hugo Chavez, it is because he is one of them, and treats them as equals.
If all men/women are born equal as many people like to believe it stands to reason that all men/women in any country are entitled to an equal share of the natural resources in their country. Hugo Chavez has been restoring these natural rights to his people, against the will of the elites who claimed to own most of the wealth. Venezuelan elites like their counterparts in most of the western “representative democracies” also own and control most of the media so it is easy to understand why we are being bombarded with their lies, and propaganda.
Whatever Hugo Chavez is he is greatly admired by millions of people around the world and his goal of restoring Bolivar’s goal of free republics united by their common bonds as an alternative to being subjected to domination by foreign powers appears to be inspiring peoples around the world to rebel against oppression and domination. Arabs are asking why their leaders don’t have the cajones to nationalize their natural resources and do something for the people who they rightfully belong to. How long before we will be hearing the same questions asked in Canada, the US, and other western “representative democracies” for corporations?
There are good reasons for elites, and leaders from around the world to hate and vilify Hugo Chavez; these parasites might have to start working for a living like the rest of us, although they are a tiny minority they are immensely wealthy and control most of the media. Hugo Chavez is called a dictator because he is introducing real direct democracy into thw world, and that spells the beginning of the end of privileged elites.
Looking at what he has done for his people as well as poor people in other countries shows that Hugo Chavez is an exceptional politician, perhaps the only one in the world that has and continues to fulfill his election promises on behalf of working people. Hugo Chavez is being judged and condemned by the elites, oligarchs, and dictators of the world and using their control of the mass media to spread their lies and distortions; any leader emerging in the world that attempts to serve his/her people to the detriment of corporations will experience the same vilification.