THE IMPORTANCE OF HUGO CHAVEZ

Article on THE IMPORTANCE OF HUGO CHAVEZ by Matthew Crighton, to be published in forthcoming Citizen magazine

It has taken his death to show us how many friends Hugo Chavez had. The regular drip, drip of hostile lies about Venezuela in the media gave way to a torrent of praise for the remarkable changes he brought to his country; and in doing that, to the world. Governments and leaders across the world, in particular Africa as well as of course Latin America, lined up to praise him.

The achievements are hard to ignore in any but the most biased assessments. He and his governments halved poverty; introduced universal healthcare systems, eliminated illiteracy. He had a practical commitment to improving the lives of Venezuela’s people and in particular the millions who had been left to a life of poverty by previous regimes. The sheer scope of the imaginative programmes he led forward is extraordinary - for health, education, food sovereignty, land reform, electoral democracy, environmental protection, employment laws, racial and gender equality, the rights of indigenous people and industrial democracy, for example.

Venezuela has done more than any other country in the last decade to reduce inequality and bring welfare services to its people. In doing that it has shown that, whatever is said in Washington and London, there is an alternative to the cuts, austerity and privatisations we are suffering.

It is surprising to me how often people say 'I like all that but I don't like his methods' and go on to assert that he controlled the media and was some kind of totalitarian or demagogue – an echo of the efforts of US spokespeople to taint him by referring to him alongside Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi and 'other tyrants'. We can expec that from the USA. Yet even left of centre papers like the Guardian and the Independent found people to slur him - like Martin Kettle saying that he was a ‘human rights abuser’ and Rory Carroll suggesting he had ‘ruined Venezuela’.

So, it is still necessary to nail a few of the more persistent lies ...... (for the full article go to the Resources page)