Alt Press Pick of the Week: Venezuela’s Reign After Hugo Chávez

Kevin Jones

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who was in office from 1999 until his death March 5, 2013, waves to a crowd of citizens in 2008. www_ukberri_net
The main­stream media and his oppo­nents have paint­ed Hugo Chávez as “…an evil dic­ta­tor, as an irre­spon­si­ble and not-so-smart clown,” writes Daniel Chavez in Red Pepper’s Venezuela: The Rev­o­lu­tion Begins Today,” but these char­ac­ter­i­za­tions dis­re­gard the mate­r­i­al impact of Hugo Chávez and the Boli­var­i­an Rev­o­lu­tion on Venezuela and Latin Amer­i­ca more broad­ly. In the wake of Chávez’s death, Daniel Chavez chal­lenges sup­port­ers and oppo­nents alike to take an objec­tive view of the changes in Venezuela since Hugo Chávez became pres­i­dent. He sees the many improved con­di­tions for many Venezue­lans that the rev­o­lu­tion can car­ry for­ward with­out him.
From Venezuela: The Rev­o­lu­tion Begins Today,” by Daniel Chavez for Red Pep­per: The truth is that mil­lions of Venezue­lans live bet­ter today than before Chávez took office in 1999. It is true that the domes­tic econ­o­my is shaky and that infla­tion is high, that the crime rate is hor­ren­dous, that access to sug­ar and oth­er basic goods has not always been guar­an­teed, and that pow­er out­ages have been unbear­able in the recent past. But it is also true that in Venezuela pover­ty in all its vari­a­tions and man­i­fes­ta­tions has fall­en steadi­ly and vis­i­bly in the past two decades—from 71 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in 1996 to just 21 per­cent in 2010 (and from 40 per­cent to 7.3 per­cent as far as extreme pover­ty is con­cerned). It is also indis­putable that the real income of work­ers has risen, that social sec­tors pre­vi­ous­ly exclud­ed from the mar­ket have had access to sub­sidised prod­ucts for fam­i­ly con­sump­tion, and that nation­al wealth has been dis­trib­uted in a more egal­i­tar­i­an man­ner than in most oth­er coun­tries of the region. 
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