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President Hugo Chavez Dies From Cancer

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  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    President Hugo Chavez, the rambunctious leader of Venezuela for the past fourteen years, died from cancer today. He was 58 years old. After taking over as President of Venezuela in 1999, he systemically transformed the country with his major social welfare programs that were designed to help lift the nations poor out of deep poverty. Many of his policies struck a chord with politicians in the United States that were used to being able to direct their will towards the oil rich nation.

    Mr. Chavez did help many thousands of Venezuelans lift themselves out of poverty and will forever be remembered by its people. What Mr. Chavez did not do was prepare his Vice President to take over the Presidency upon his death. With a weak Vice President destined to take the helm of the Presidency, there is genuine concern from this writer of what happens next in this nation of 30 million people. Whenever a larger than life figure dies, it opens up a Pandora's box as to what the future might hold. These next few days will show if there will be a smooth transition or if the country is heading for a major conflict.

    Thoughts on the death of Mr. Chavez and what it means for the future of Venezuela? Will Vice President Nicolas Maduro be able to consolidate his power quickly or is Venezuela destined to fall into conflict in the days and months ahead?
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Jared --

    You are right. Venezuela's problem is that there are few candidates formidable enough to unite the country. If we think of a left-right divide in the United States, that divide has also been dominant in Venezuela politics under Chavez. VP Nicolas Maduro will certainly be a weaker left candidate than Chavez but will still rally the poor. I think he will still prevail over Henrique Capriles, the center right opponent favored by conservatives in the last election. Capriles is more centrist than many of the conservative candidates of the past.

    Regardless of which candidate wins, the country's economic course forward will be difficult. Although oil is the prime driver of the economy, in the general strike of 2002-2003 Chavez fired 18,000 workers from the state oil company for participating in the strike....40 percent of the workforce including many of their top engineers and scientists. The country has never fully recovered from that "brain drain." Furthermore he has nationalized major industries including oil, agriculture, mining, finance, telecommunications, steel and others. Those nationalizations have not helped out the economy and have discouraged foreign investment by western countries, although China and Iran have filled part of the void. The current inflation rate is hovering just below 30 percent.

    Without the windfall profits of high oil prices, the Venezuelan economy would have collapsed.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    RT, March 8, 2013: Chavez to be embalmed ‘like Lenin’ and put on public display

    VP Nicolas Maduro has revealed that Hugo Chavez will be embalmed and preserved just like Lenin. His body will be forever displayed in the ‘Mountain Barracks’ where he devised a failed coup. Those barracks will be turned into a "Museum of the Revolution."

    “We have decided to prepare the body of our Comandante President, to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,” said Nicolas Maduro, the provisional president, on state TV. He is Chavez’s designated successor.

    Chavez is to be kept in a glass casket in the museum so that he can be seen for “eternity” and his people “will always have him.”
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    For many Americans, we cannot understand the euphoria that the people of Venezuela had for Hugo Chavez. If Americans knew what life was like in Venezuela before Chavez, with hard right conservatives (Chavez called them oligarchs) taking much of the oil wealth for themselves while doing little to help the plight of the poor, they would appreciate Chavez more. Eva Golinger wrote an opinion piece for CNN:

    Eva Golinger, CNN Opinion, March 7, 2013: Chavez was a maker of dreams

    A few extracts:

    "Hugo Chavez was beloved by millions around the world. He changed the course of a continent and led a collective awakening of a people once silenced, once exploited and ignored. Chavez was a grandiose visionary and a maker of dreams.

    "Chavez's policies reduced extreme poverty in Venezuela by more than 75%, from 25% to less than 7% in a decade, according to statistics from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. And overall poverty was reduced by more than 50%, from 60% in 1998 when Chavez first won office to 27% by 2008.

    "He established free, quality public education from preschool through doctoral studies, accessible to all. In fact, for those in remote areas or places without educational facilities, schools were built and mobile educational facilities were created to bring education to the people.

    "He created a national public health system offering universal, free health care to all, with the help and solidarity of Cuba, which sent thousands of doctors and medical workers to provide quality services to the Venezuelan people, many who had never received medical care in their lives.

    "Chavez propelled policies of inclusion and participatory governance, giving voice to those previously excluded from politics. He created grassroots community councils and networks to attend to local needs in neighborhoods across the nation, placing the power to govern in the joint hands of community groups.

    "He recognized the rights of the disabled, of indigenous peoples, all genders and sexualities. He broke down barriers of racism and classism and declared himself a socialist feminist."


    Eva Golinger has been living in Caracas since 2005 so her views should be reflective of much of the Venezuelan populace that adored Hugo Chavez. American diplomacy needs to come to terms with that real mood of the nation if they are to ever make progress in renewing a friendship. Right now it is the oil industry that is most influential of our ties with Venezuela. We need to broaden those efforts and reach out to the Chavez supporters rather than follow the likes of Pat Robertson who at one time called for his assassination.