President of VenezuelaNext
- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Leftist Loudmouth
- Official Title: President
- Government: Established democracy...with authoritarianism tendencies
- Years Left in Office: Indefinite; no term limits
- Political Classification: Extreme-left
- Education: BS degree in Military Arts & Sciences
- Born: July 28, 1954
- Died: March 5, 2013
Hugo Chávez Facts and Information
- President of Venezuela, has been since 1999
- Dedicated socialist, recognized leader of the leftist "Bolivarian Revolution" in Latin America
- Prominent adversary of US foreign policy globally, he is anti-US, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist
- Has allied himself with other prominent leftist in Latin America like the Castro in Cuba, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador
- Supports Latim American unions like MERCOSUR and UNASUL over US-backed FTAA
- Chávez is a highly controversial and divisive figure both at home and abroad
Our “You are a donkey Mr. Bush” guy is one of the most controversial presidents in today’s conflicting oil-driven world. His multiple appearances on TV, along with his weekly talk show “Aló Presidente”, have set people taking almost as much as he does himself. Hugo loves to play baseball, to read Karl Marx, and to refer to the US as an imperial power that is draining South America wealth and natural resources.
Thousands of speeches, hundreds of analysis and dozens of books have failed to define “Chavismo”, although Hugo Chavez is the hub of the most powerful political movement of Venezuelan democracy, which mixes a radical socialist, conservative military, pragmatic and successful entrepreneurship, all under the red flag of revolution. Chavez also would often include in his speeches quotes from the Bible, French poets, military overtones and repeated references to Simon Bolivar. In fact many of his ideas are a “democratic socialist interpretation” of the ideas of Simon Bolivar (an early 19th century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader).
Chavez is not scared to make radical changes. He has changed the constitution, has established unlimited presidential reelections and has added an eighth star to the start arc in the Venezuelan flag. However, this is nothing compare to the nationalization of companies and banks and his controversial price-policy controls. Due to the fact that all of Chavez’ speeches and actions are extreme to the right wing political parties of Venezuela and the United States, are skeptic about his policies.
However, this wild pro-government campaign surpasses any egocentric supposition you might have at first. Human Rights Watch has highlighted Venezuela’s laws of media censorship as an abuse of power. Take, for instance, the decision of CONATEL (the Government Broadcasting Authority) to suspend in 2009 the transmission of multiple radio stations and channels that didn’t show a strong nationalistic alliance…measure, off course by the government standards, which in the case of Venezuela are impossible to meet.
Constantly, we hear in the news the words dictatorship and Venezuela being used in the same sentence, even though the current regime has never been officially declared as a “dictatorship”, and we are constantly reminded that Venezuela is still considered as an established democracy…if not in practice, at least in theory. The results in the ballot box have helped downplay Chavez’s authoritarian behavior with the excuse that he had been democratically elected.
Often Chavez displays very hands on approach to his presidency. On several occasions he has been out in the poor communities giving land deeds to people for newly allotted land, inspecting the work of the military, and talking to the common men and women of Venezuela.
Over the almost 14 years that Chavez had been President, he has make very clear that the US is consider “public enemy #1”, to which the US has not responded aggressively as they don’t considered that serious of a threat! Come one…honesty how many years can that guy remain in power…oh waaait…10, 12, 14 years and counting!
But who is Hugo Chavez….to understand a little better…let’s start from the beginning!!
Hugo Chavez Frias was born in Sabaneta, Barinas State on July 28th, 1954. Chavez is a former Venezuelan military officer and politician. When he was a kid he played baseball like all children in Venezuela… and apparently he was a good pitcher. It was the desire to become a major league pitcher that initially led him into the military. Chavez attended the Military Academy of Venezuela, where he earned the rank of second lieutenant in 1975 and obtained a degree in Military Arts and Sciences. Through his military career he held various positions in the National Armed Forces.
In 1982 Hugo Chavez founded the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement (MBR-2000). Through 1989-1990, he studied Political Science at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. He was commander of the military operation Ezequiel Zamora, who starred in the rebellion of February 4, 1992. Those actions launched him onto the political scene while at the same time, earned him 2 years in Yare prison (1992-1994). Once Chavez was released from his conviction, he started to organize a political party called the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), which would lead him to power four years later.
Elected president of the Republic, Hugo Chavez urged the election of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution, which was later approved by referendum. Throughout his political career, Chávez has founded his campaigns by denouncing state corruption and major political parties, with excellent results…in July 2000 President Chavez was reelected by an overwhelming lead over his opponents.
Two years later, on April 11, 2002, Chavez was the subject of a failed coup civic-military coup. Prisoner for two days on the island of Orchila, Hugo Chavez was restored to his functions by the action of some sectors of the Army and its supporters. After the failed coup, the opposition organized demonstrations that led to a general strike between December 2002 and February 2003. Conflicts with the opposition did not cease by August 2004 and Chavez recalled referendum on his presidency, which was strengthened by achieving 59% of the vote. And as if that was not enough…two months later, Chavez’s party achieved a resounding victory in the regional and local elections in Venezuela.
In 2004, the government of Venezuela, led by Hugo Chávez, proposed the signing of an Agreement as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposed by the United States.
The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, or ALBA) is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The member nations (aka as Chavez’ allies) are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. At the February 2012 summit, Suriname and Saint Lucia were admitted to ALBA as guest countries.
As part of his anti USA sentiment, Chavez has establish strategic relationships with the BRIC countries. As part of the alliances, in 2008, China successfully launched a Venezuelan telecommunication satellite into space. This was China’s first manufacturing contract as well as a launch for a Latin American country!!! The satellite is called Venezuela-1 and is also known as Simon Bolivar Satellite will be used in broadcasting, tele-education, as well as medical services.
So how has this guy managed to stay in power so long, while simultaneously so despised by the USA? Succinctly: he has maintained great popularity among the masses in Venezuela as a pure populist: the whole ‘socialist revolution’ thing has at its base a re-distribution and re-allocation of resources from the elite/rich companies to the formerly impoverished masses. And in a democracy, the masses get to pick the leaders, thus Hugo’s status as a savior figure to millions of once-desperate Venezuelans, and as a fighter for the common man, the underdog, and as standing up for social justice. That is powerful stuff. And he has increased government funding of health care and education, and marked significant reductions in poverty; indeed, the lives of lots of Venezuelans has gotten better under his reign…
...But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he has done a great job, or even a thorough job, of turning around Venezuela’s fortunes. Crime is exceptionally high and violent; their infrastructure is crumbling; there is significant public dissent; the freedom of the press is seriously undermined; and he has made many political moves to ensure his own power indefinitely….not so democratic, nor really socialist for that matter. Their economy is just so-so, semi-stagnant, and basically he has only been able to pull off the socialist agenda via the over-reliance on oil revenues. Now, oil revenues may last a while longer, hell maybe forever, but that ain’t enough to sustain an economy and provide jobs and create a diverse, educated workforce. China and other countries may continue to purchase raw commodities from Venezuela to full Hugo’s coffers, but again, that’s not really the kind of sustainable economy that most leaders want for their country…in fact it’s closer to a kind of economic neo-colonialism, with China and other commodity-importing countries simply displacing the US and Western European ones. Speaking of which…
Why does the USA so despise this dude? And why does Hugo hate them right back? I must add in a side note here by telling you that the war of words between these entities is a gigantic, counter-productive joke from both sides, and has needlessly created fictionalized enemies from past infractions. There really is no need from such banter from either side…it kind of looks like kindergarteners spitting at each other on the school playground…but even kids would not have taken it as far as Hugo and the US government have in terms of vitriolic hate speech that in slung from one party to the other…damaging relations and stymieing economic partnerships for no real reason. What I waste. But I digress….
Back to the mutual malevolence: Part of the way Hugo has led his self-styled socialist revolution has been to nationalize companies…that is, take over ownership and production of private companies and make them state-owned and controlled assets, so that all of the profits from those businesses then go to the state. Now, if he did that to just local companies, then only the business class in Venezuela would suffer, and that would be that. But Hugo has a certain penchant for also taking over foreign owned multinational companies….some of which were US companies…
Ahhhh shit! That will do it! Uncle Sam doesn’t like having its rich companies get their stuff grabbed by pseudo-commies! Hell, the US has invaded countries in the past for just such shenanigans! So when a company likes Exxon gets grabbed by Hugo (it did), they go to the US government and demand action….and thus the US action for over a decade has mostly been to sue, harass, berate and belittle the Chavez regime at every turn, as openly and vehemently as possible. The US has pushed the envelope on that front perhaps a little too much though, often calling Chavez himself a dictator, and suggesting that all the elections have been rigged. They have not been; the OAS has overseen every election and declared them all free and fair, even if Hugo does push the limits a bit with excessive use of cash to fund his campaigns, and almost total control of the press to promote his agenda.
So the USA thinks he is a commie that is stealing private companies goods, and the US has a long history of hating commies and socialist to the point of intolerance and idiocy. For his part, Hugo fuels that hate by calling the US the great oppressor, imperialist, and all around evil entity of the planet. That of course is pushing a bit too far too, but Hugo can easily argue that historically the US has been fairly oppressive and underhanded in many of its dealings with Latin America, and there is much truth in that as well. The US has certainly pushed a capitalist agenda south of its border for centuries…one that mostly benefits itself.
It didn’t help that the US refused to condone an undemocratic coup that almost toppled Hugo, even when all other democracies in the Western Hemisphere condoned it. Not cool. It is also why Chavez has remained convinced that the US and the CIA have been secretly plotting to overthrow him for a decade, or perhaps even use the veil of ‘stopping drugs’ to invade Venezuela outright. Do I think there is much truth in that? Nah. But I totally understand why Hugo would believe it. He certainly wouldn’t be the first Latin American leader to be toppled by the US.
So Hugo hates and fears and rages against the historical, and currently perceived, US aggression. The US hates his nationalizing ways, his commie tendencies, and his ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ that seeks to distance all of Latin America from US influence. The majority of Venezuelans still support him, although it should be noted that of course the upper class, the middle-upper class, and the business class of Venezuela does not. Some of Venezuela’s poverty and wealth disparity issues have been partially fixed; many of their other big issues have yet to be addressed adequately. And all of it depends on the price of oil, on which the entire revolution and society depends.
Over the years it has become clear that “chavismo without Chavez” is an exercise of political fiction, with unpredictable political repercussions, diplomatic and economic for the country. Furthermore…with the president’s recent health issues it has become evident that more and more the president’s health is the health of revolutionary process itself! Amanecera y veremos!!!
2013 UPDATE: Hugo once again showed he has the backing of the majority of Venezuelans for his economic/political socialist revolution, as he was re-elected in December for his 4th term…but it was his most narrow margin of victory ever, and that after spending millions and millions of Venezuelan tax dollars on his re-election campaign. So it appears that the opposition parties in Venezuela are actually starting to rally and present a viable alternative to “Hugo-ism”, and they are likely to continue to chip away at the once unstoppable Chavez support base, probably because crime is high, corruption is high, and the Venezuelan economy leaves much to be desired, even after 12 years of ‘socialist‘ change.
Bottom line: he has another 6-year run in office with the possibility of running this country for the rest of his life. But hold on a moment! For those of you that have been following the news, you know that the end of Hugo’s life is a matter of great speculation here as of late! Having now undergone 4 separate surgeries for cancer in a Cuban hospital, it is really anyone’s guess as to how much longer Hugo will be alive, much less be in power. Since he is too sick to even make it to his own inauguration, the country is being thrown into a constitutional crisis, with the opposition fighting for snap elections since the people now in charge were not elected by the people…only Hugo was!
We of course wish him all the best and a speedy recover, but honestly, the absence of such a egotistical figure only compounds the conclusions that he is in dire health, and a recovery is likely to be long, or impossible. The bigger problem? Hugo is a larger than life character who created this revolution….and he has no clear successor no matter what happens. What will be the future of the Bolivarian experiment, and the future of Venezuela itself, without its charismatic leader to carry it? Chaos seems imminent….