Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chavez’s New Brand of Populism

Manila, Philippines.
To denigrate him, the enemies of Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, call him a populist … as if that were the greatest insult in the glossary of political science.

Frankly, there is nothing inherently diabolic about populism, if you ask me.

But, since a handful of false democrats and tin pan dictators have misused the concept, it now connotes a devious setting out to curry favor among the masses, inevitably resulting in bad governance.

In its true sense, populism is not the road to perdition; in fact, it can fill that yawning abyss between promises and performance, that is why it is so politically alluring. Obviously, it requires oodles of money, government funds equitably disbursed and distributed; so if a leader is secretly avaricious, downright spineless and standing on gelatinous economic ground, s/he had better not even mention the P word.

The redoubtable Hugo Chavez is a populist of the good kind and fortunately, he can very well afford to be one. For the first time, the Venezuelan government has full control of its oil industry, the 5th largest in the world.

Fourteen percent of Venezuela’s oil production goes to the USA because the colossus of the North, despite G. W. Bush’s virulent anti-Chavez machinations, imports some 1.5 million barrels a day. Business is business, but Venezuela has also committed to supply Cuba, a number of Caribbean and Central American governments with oil at more friendly terms.

* * *

With world prices of crude heading towards US$50 a barrel by winter time, President Hugo Chavez can expect to have even more resources to fund and nurture his brand of populism.

As basic as they are massive, his social programs comprise of literacy missions, primary and secondary education for the deprived, employment opportunities, affordable food, medicines and health care for the destitute, and social security for “un-waged” women who head 65% of Venezuela’s households.

Over 250,000 drop-outs now have access to secondary education and unused buildings of Petroleos de Venezuela have been converted into schools. A cultural TV station — Vive — was set up as a shield against North American cultural invasion.

There are 11,000 more neighborhood clinics in shanty towns around urban centers. Long-term immigrants from neighboring countries have been granted citizenship, a measure denounced by the opposition as vote-generating. Relentless, President Chavez describes his government’s agenda as “people empowerment;” the grassroots are the protagonists in Venezuela, the “pueblo protagonico.”

Evidently, it is President Chavez’ channeling of oil revenues to social use that has helped him survive three grave threats to his life and government. In April 2002, there was a coup d’etat, reminiscent of the Pinochet/CIA offensive that overthrew (and killed) Chile’s President Salvador Allende in 1973. Significantly, an alliance of loyal military officers and civilian groups (Circulos Bolivarianos) restored Hugo Chavez to power in less than two days.

At year end, there was a labor lock-out in Venezuela’s oil industry, obviously aimed at undermining Chavez’s vital social programs. Its impact could have been worse than the general transport strike that bedeviled the Allende government. It can be argued that international events affecting the world’s oil supply were not favorable to the economic saboteurs and political de-stabilizers.

* * *

Then came the August referendum with the crucial question, answerable by either a YES or NO: “Should the mandate of the Chavez administration be revoked?”

Out of 14 million registered voters, 8.6 million cast their votes … a bigger turnout than the 7.5 million in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was elected President. He said: “I am pleased to be the first President to submit himself to the people’s judgment halfway through his term and to be ratified in office.”

I guess the 59% who reaffirmed his mandate believe that populist Hugo Chavez is a president worth defending.

GEMMA ARANETA writes for the Manila Bulletin.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail