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:

December 11, 2018
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail