Vale ChavezA post I made on an internet forum expresses what I feel about Chavez.
The US hates democracy and liberals across the world, as demonstrated by their fighting to overturn the will of the people on many occasions, and their support for basically anyone who will kill liberals, particularly in South America. It's a shameful record.
Chavez was elected in elections that were acclaimed as free and fair, against enormous, well-funded opposition, including the connivance of the US government.
He didn't allow a completely free press but I think that is fair enough when the media are exhorting the people to rise up in a rightwing revolution. We are not talking a few nutters on cable. We're talking major media. Free speech does have its limits: fire in the theatre and all that. He also repressed some political opposition. But a tyrant, no?
Take an honest look at it. It's easy to say that the whole world should just transition to a completely free, democratic system overnight, but two things should mitigate that feeling. One, we do not start from scratch. Most countries have such entrenched, unjust structures of power that they simply do not have the civil society to support a democracy, and it's on the whole doomed to failure. Two, does it work for the people in those places that have it? Is America paradise? Is having a smallish number of very rich people, a larger number of affluent people and a large slice of poor people what we should actually strive for. Is a system in which money buys power, and ONLY money buys power, actually a good thing?
Is it good for a country like Venezuela, where wealth disparity is even more marked than it is in the States? Is saying you're free to buy power a good idea in a nation where a tiny elite controls everything?
Freedom is nothing if you are unable to exercise that freedom. Freedom of speech is nothing if you have no voice. Freedom to own property is nothing if you cannot acquire property. Freedom is nothing without justice, and justice is nothing if it comes at a price that only some can pay.
He did some great things for the people of Venezuela, increasing spending on health and education enormously, and spreading the oil wealth in a way that strongly contrasts with the US. He was a hero, a giant, flawed but magnificent and it's no wonder the right hates him. A hundred Chavezes across this world and we would start to build a good place to live in for all of us, not just the privileged few.