Hugo Chavez (1954- present)Edit
Hugo Chavez is the President of Venezuela. He was born to a poor family on July28, 1954. Both of his parents were schoolteachers. At age 17 he decided to attend the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences.
After many years in the military, Chavez held a coup attempt in 1992 to over run the current president, Carlos Andres Perez. Coincidently, in 2008, a coup attempt was done to over run him. After a failed attempt of a military coup, Chavez spent his next two years in jail before emerging into the political scene. Inherited the skills from his parents, he knows how to talk and listen to people, which explains the reasons why he is a very proficient communicator. He was often criticized by the middle class as being drab and provincial, all because he wanted to communicate effectively with the lower class, the poor people in shantytowns, who form the core of his support base.Chavez, who overcame the social pyramid of hierarchy from an unprivileged upbringing, used his military background to climb the political ladder, and in doing so rallied up the support of the working class and poor majority of Venezuela. Because Chavez is said to directly connected with and truly representative of "the people" there is great respect for what he is doing to help out the working classes, decreasing poverty, redistributing the wealth of the oil companies, and creating jobs so that people can sustain themselves in everyday life. Chavez's promises of political, and economical reform, made him very popular with the people of Venezuela, and gained support of the lower class majority in his political campaign for the Presidential Election. Another important factor that led to his popularity is his military background. Because of the image associated with the military, Chavez is seen as a hero. The military also plays a big role in getting him back in power after the coup of 2008 that increased his popularity and heightened his heroic image. Chavez's political party, United Socialist Party of Venezuela is now the largest political party in Venezuela. Chavez was elected president in 1999 and still holds power today.
In 2007, Chavez told U.S officials to "Go to hell Gringos" and also called Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice "Missy" on a local radio show. His reasoning was that the U.S. was meddling in Venezuelan affairs. Since recent disputes and Chavez constantly accusing the United States of conspiring the oust of him in Venezuelan government. Of course, the U.S government denied ever saying such things but labeled Chavez as a threat to democracy. Chavez's talk of increasing oil prices affects the bonds of foreign affairs between the United States and Venezuela (Toothaker).
In 2009, American filmaker Oliver Stone and Cinema Libre Studio released "South of the Border." In this movie, Stone interviews many leaders of the Latin American countries who follow the pink tide. Chavez is the main star of the film, and gives a brief history to his rise of power. In the movie, we see that Chavez is a popular man among the lower class people, and he truly enjoys meeting and helping those people who give him so much support. The fact that the people of Venezuela embrace Chavez like they do shows that he must be doing something right in the eyes of the people - or at least the majority of them. Chavez also talks about his roots growing up as a poor kid in Venezuela. However, in the months following the release, the film had received much criticism, especially from NY Times writer Larry Rohter, who points out the various mistakes in the movie, and how it leads the audience to idolize the seemingly saint like Chavez.
Above all the Venezuelan view of Chavez is what really matters. Since Venezuela is a democracy and the elect their president how can he be a dictator if the majority of the people love him. That majority maybe in poverty but Chavez has actually worked hard to decrease the amount of poverty in Venezuela. South of the Boarder gave facts that poverty had been reduced by half and extreme poverty had been reduced by 75 percent. Although Chavez loves poor people it is not because he wants them to stay poor it is because he was once poor himself. In South of the Boarder Chavez takes Stone and the audience to where he grew up. After learning a little about his life, Chavez does not seem like a dictator or a corrupt man. He is a man that wants better for his country, and although some of his ways improve his country may seem unorthodox he acts through good intentions.
When we analyse the movie and its criticism, we have to admit that there are certain points that are true in these criticisms. For one thing, the policy of Chavez can be questioned in terms of its actual economic benefits. In the film, a critic makes a comment that "Chavez loves poor people so much that he has created millions more of them." It is obvious that Chavez's goal is to keep his popularity among the common people. The elite class against him, which is obvious from the coup, but Chavez realizes that the majority of the population of Venezuela is poor. As the coup shows, as long as he can keep the military and the common people on his side, he can remain in power. However, while his economic reforms with health care, education and redistribution of oil wealth has manged to reduce the absolute poverty in the country, it has done little to eliminate relative poverty. Even though living standards have increased, the majority is still poor. One reason is that relative poverty is harder to eliminate and there will always be inequality within a society. Secondly, educational and health reforms take a long time to take effect. Thirdly, in economic terms, whenever there is government intervention, it leads to market failure. Hence, there is always going to a be a poor, working class in the society and as long as this principle upholds, Chavez can stay in power. This is precisely why, the elite class see him as a dictator, and his reforms are seen as a way to keep power for himself and not a way for democracy.
One thing that is apparent throughout the history of his presidency and power struggle is the obvious ongoing war between the various media in there depictions of Chavez. This has had a very influential take on his image as a leader not only to the various classes of people in Venezuela, but on an international stage as well. Labels ranging from humanitarian to dictator haven often been used to describe opposing views on the same man.
However, despite this likely over-glorification of Chavez in the film, it cannot be denied that he has decreased the extreme poverty in the country and has also made Venezuela much more politically stable, which has led to economic growth. His reforms have made education accessible to all and illiteracy rates have plummeted as a result. He has redistributed the oil wealth, investing it in healthcare and education, which has increased the living standards of the common people of Venezuela. He has given more rights to those who were previously oppressed in the society. It is for these reasons he is seen as a democratic leader by the majority of Venezuelans. In fact, because has made a positive change in Venezuela, he has set an example for all other Latin American countries to follow.In 2009 President of the United States, Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela met for the first time at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. Pictures were taken of Obama and Chavez shaking hands and even quoted Chavez saying that he hopes for better relations between the two countries countries. This is surely a step forward from the words Chavez said about the United States in the past.
In October of 2010, Chavez met with Iranian President Maumod Ahmadinejad, saying that they were united in efforts to create a "new world order" that would eliminate Western dominance over global affairs. Both of the presidents denounced United States imperialism and that the U.S. would be unable to interfere in the cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Problems arise with Iran's nuclear energy program, which the United States fears might be being used as a cover to develop atomic weapons. Chavez defends the program insisting that it is used for peaceful reasons and not bomb making.
"Here are just some of Chavez's anti-American blasts:
-- "The U.S. has bombarded entire cities, used chemical weapons and napalm, killed women, children and thousands of soldiers. That's terrorism." (Sept. 25, 2005: Washington Post interview)
-- The U.S. government under Bush is the "most savage, cruel and murderous empire that has existed in the history of the world."
-- "Our real enemy is called the U.S. empire, and on Sunday, Dec. 2, we're going to give another knockout to Bush, so no one forgets that is the battlefield." (Dec. 1, 2007: election speech in Caracas)
-- "Capitalism will lead to the destruction of humanity ... (and America) is the devil that represents capitalism." (August 2006: speech in Vietnam) -- American policy in the Mideast is "a policy of permanent aggression, of war, of terrorism by the U.S. empire. That's the great guilty one, the great Satan, as they call it here." (April 1, 2009: Tehran, Iran)" ("Handshake")
-- "Imperialism has entered a decisive phase of decline and is headed, like elephants, to the graveyard" (Oct. 2010).
"Handshake With Obama Belies Chavez's Contempt for America." FoxNews 20 April 2009: n. pag. Web. 14 Dec 2010. <http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/20/handshake-obama-belies-chavezs-contempt-america#ixzz186zVGCqC>.
Silva, Eduardo. Challenging Neoliberalism in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Quintana, Carlos. Development Problems in Latin America. Austin, TX: University of Austin Texas, 1970. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Image:Jamesmonroe-npgallery.