Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías
(Spanish pronunciation: [ˈuɣo rafaˈel ˈtʃaβes ˈfɾi.as]; 28 July 1954 – 5 March 2013) was the President of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when it merged with several other parties to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which he led until his death in 2013. Following his own political ideology of Bolivarianism and "socialism of the 21st century", he focused on implementing socialist reforms in the country as a part of a social project known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has seen the implementation of a new constitution, participatory democratic councils, the nationalization of several key industries, increased government funding of health care and education, and significant reductions in poverty, according to government figures. Under Chavez, Venezuelans’ quality of life improved according to a UN Index and the poverty rate fell from 48.6 percent in 2002 to 29.5 percent in 2011, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America.
Born into a working-class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, Chávez became a career military officer, and after becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system, he founded the secretive Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200) in the early 1980s to work towards overthrowing it. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d'état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Released from prison after two years, he founded a socialist political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998.
He subsequently introduced a new constitution which increased rights for marginalized groups and altered the structure of Venezuelan government, and was re-elected in 2000. During his second presidential term, he introduced a system of Bolivarian Missions,Communal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives, as well as a program of land reform, while also nationalizing various key industries. He was re-elected in 2006 with over 60% of the vote. On 7 October 2012, Chávez won his country's presidential election for a fourth time, defeating Henrique Capriles, and was elected for another six-year term.
Allying himself strongly with the communist governments of Fidel and then Raúl Castro in Cuba and the socialist governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, his presidency was seen as a part of the socialist "pink tide" sweeping Latin America. Along with these governments, Chávez described his policies as anti-imperialist, being a prominent adversary of the United States' foreign policyas well as a vocal critic of U.S.-supported neoliberalism and laissez-faire capitalism.
He supported Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and was instrumental in setting up the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South, and the regional television network TeleSur. However, Chavez had extensive disputes with Colombia, and supported rebels in Colombia and Ecuador, causing ambassadors to be recalled and troops to be mobilized. Chávez was a highly controversial and divisive figure both at home and abroad, having insulted other world leaders and compared U.S. president George W. Bush to a donkey, and called him the devil. Whereas he was derided by the US media, others called him a progressive democrat, saying the US tries to undermine and de-legitimize his government in Venezuela.
On 30 June 2011, Chávez stated that he was recovering from an operation to remove an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells. He required a second operation in December 2012. He was to have been sworn in on 10 January 2013, but the National Assembly of Venezuela agreed to postpone the inauguration to allow him time to recuperate and return from a third medical treatment trip to Cuba. He died in Caracas on 5 March 2013 at the age of 58.
The 'facts' about Hugo Chavez's death
The Monterey County Herald
Posted: 03/22/2013 10:26:15 PM PDT
Updated: 03/22/2013 10:26:16 PM PDT
Venezuela's acting president isn't pointing fingers, mind you, but facts are facts: In the 1940s, the imperialists to the north had "scientific laboratories testing how to cause cancer" and 70 years later, Hugo Chavez died of — you guessed it — cancer. Coincidence? You decide. Nicolas Maduro, who stepped up to replace Chavez pending an April 14 election, plans to name a scientific panel to investigate whether the president was "poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way." "I'm not accusing the United States at this very moment," he said. Of course not. Venezuela's government won't say what type of cancer afflicted Chavez, who traveled to Cuba for the first of four surgeries in June 2011. But Maduro is "almost certain" foul play was involved, because the cancer "broke with all the typical characteristics of this illness." Alas, attempts to expose the conspiracy are at odds with loyalists' hope to have Chavez's body preserved for eternal display, a la Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Chemicals used for long-term embalming would destroy the evidence, it turns out. Also, the body should have been refrigerated right away. In fact, the normal embalming process, employed before Chavez's body was put on public display March 7, probably rendered the scientific investigation pointless — unless the point was to remind Venezuelans about the Yankee menace in hopes that they will forget they have no electricity or milk. That shtick worked for Chavez, but only because he supplied Venezuela's poor with food, shelter, education and health care in the days before his socialist revolution scared away foreign investors and his reckless spending tanked the economy. The next president — and Maduro hopes it will be him — won't have a lot of favors to pass out. Still, Maduro is doing his best to radiate Chavismo, mainly by making outrageous statements. He called opposition candidate Henri Capriles "a little princess" and a fascist. He suggested that Chavez, who is now "face to face with Christ," had a hand in selection of the first Latin American pope. He claimed that teams of assassins are trying to kill him and National Assembly President Diasdado Cabello, and that two "far right" American figures — both former members of the George W. Bush administration — are plotting to kill Capriles. And of course, there's that business about Chavez getting cancer from the "dark forces."As it happens, Chavez raised that suspicion himself in December 2011, calling for a summit of leftist Latin American presidents who recently have been diagnosed with cancer: Argentina's Cristina Fernandez (thyroid), Paraguay's Fernando Lugo (lymphatic), Brazil's Dilma Rousseff (lymphatic) and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (throat). Like Maduro, Chavez professed he wasn't naming names. "I'm just sharing my thoughts," he said, "but it's very, very, very strange." Chavez said he was warned by his friend and mentor, former Cuban President Fidel Castro. "Fidel always told me, 'Chavez, take care. These people have developed technology. ... A little needle, and they inject you with I don't know what.'" A few years ago, one of Castro's former bodyguards wrote a book in which he claimed to have documented an astonishing 634 attempts to assassinate the Cuban strongman. The CIA was behind many of them, employing tactics that included poisoned coffee, snipers, a diving suit coated with biological warfare chemicals, a booby-trapped speaker's podium and of course, the famous exploding cigar. We're not sure which is more improbable: that hapless American agents failed to kill Castro all those times, or that they got Chavez on the first try.
— Chicago Tribune editorial
Why Did the US Government and Big Oil Hate Chavez? HERE
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. On Tuesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died, as most of our viewers know now. Now joining us to discuss the significance of his life and the meaning of his death is Greg Palast. Greg’s a investigative journalist. He’s worked for the BBC. He’s written for The Nation magazine, Rolling Stone. He’s the author of a new bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. Thanks for joining us again, Greg.
GREG PALAST, BBC INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Glad to be with you, Paul.
- JAY: Well, first of all let’s talk about your connection with Chávez. You’ve made at least one or two films about Chávez. You got to know him personally. What were your impressions?
- PALAST: Well, I was assigned by BBC Television to find out who this guy was and why the U.S. wanted to kill him. Pat Robertson made the statement on the air Hugo Chávez thinks, you know, we’re trying to kill him and we ought to just go and do it, for the simple reason that Reverend Robertson made, which is that Hugo Chávez is sitting on the world’s largest pool of oil. It’s bigger—now the Venezuelan reserves are actually bigger than those of Saudi Arabia. No one’s close. And therefore the U.S. oil companies, the British oil companies, French oil companies want to know why Venezuelans are sitting on top of their oil and won’t give it away to them.
- JAY: But Chávez does sell oil to the United States. Venezuela’s one of the main suppliers of oil to the United States. And while there was a lot of rhetoric against the United States from President Chávez, they never did stop selling oil to them.
- PALAST: No. Chávez never wanted to stop selling oil to the U.S. His nation would die if it didn’t sell oil. The idea that Chávez would ever threaten to remove oil is ridiculous. But what the U.S. oil companies and the big oil companies around the world didn’t like is that Chávez wouldn’t give the stuff away. Chávez sells Venezuelan crude oil. As of last week, it was about $101 a barrel. That’s $33 a barrel more than the Canadians sell their heavy oil for, the same type of oil that Chávez sells, which is, by the way, as I’ve mentioned on your program before, the reason that the Koch brothers and the U.S. is pushing for this so-called XL Keystone pipeline. It’s all about trying to get oil at a cheaper price than Chávez will sell it. And Chávez wouldn’t sell it cheaply, because he uses that money, extraordinarily, unusually, for the Venezuelan people. It’s just unheard of that a big oil nation uses their money from oil to give to the people.
- JAY: Right. Yeah. Well, in terms of what you’ve seen so far, American media’s reaction to the death of President Chávez—actually, in one of the other interviews I’m going to show this again. Here’s The New York Times just hours after President Chávez’s death, and the headline is “Chávez dies leaving a bitterly divided Venezuela.” My comment was—we can put that down now—my comment was: and tell me exactly which country isn’t bitterly divided. The United States is this great, harmonious paradise? And especially an oil country, yeah, you’re going to have a division over who gets to use the oil wealth.
- PALAST: Actually, I completely disagree. It’s not a bitterly divided nation. Chávez was overwhelmingly reelected several times. I’ve been all over the United States covering elections here and all over Venezuela and all over many nations covering elections. Venezuela’s actually one of the least divided nations on the planet. The Chávez administration was unbelievably popular.
- JAY: Yeah, but listen—.
- PALAST: Even the Carter Center, the Carter Center’s funded by this guy Cisneros, who is a Venezuelan opponent of Chávez. Even the Carter Center says that no one’s ever accused Chávez of stealing an election. He’s very, very, very popular there. He was popular, his party’s popular, for a simple reason: as one of his opponents told me, a broadcaster, she said, well, you know, Chávez gives bread and bricks to the people, you know, ’cause they used to live in shanties; they now live in real houses. They were starving; now they have food. They had no medicine; now they have—you know, Chávezcare beats Obamacare by a mile. So of course they vote for him. And she said that with disgust, like, you know, how dare he give the oil money to the poor people. But that’s what he did. So it’s not a divided nation that—yeah, I mean, you could say it’s divided 75-25, but that’s—.
- JAY: Well, we could argue about this, ’cause I think it may be more like the vote breaks down, which is maybe 55, 60 was the support in Chávez, and you could have 30 to 40 percent that were opposed, which here—I mean, the United States, you’re—who knows? I mean, a lot of people don’t vote, and it’s maybe 50-50. But I think you’re right. I mean, clearly he won election after election and he had majority support. But that doesn’t mean there was a lot of bitter opposition to him, and not only from just the rich. There were—you know, if you—I’ve been in Caracas quite a few times, and, you know, there was opposition even at levels in the working class, in the middle class. But I take your point. The majority of people clearly supported Chávez and what he was doing.
- PALAST: Yeah. I mean, there are always those that felt that the revolution, as he called it, didn’t go far enough. So there’s always a big opposition on the left. And young people were chafing. They want a new world. They hadn’t had the deprivations of their parents. But, you know, he was a popular guy.
- JAY: So talk a little bit about the American media reaction to his death. The level of venom is really something.
- PALAST: It’s unbelievable, both—and what’s amazing to me is it doesn’t matter whether it’s, you know, the kind of Fox News stuff—or you assume that the right wing will attack Chávez and you’ll assume Pat Robertson will attack Chávez, but you get this from The New York Times, you get this from PBS. And, well, we know why PBS. Number one funder of PBS is Chevron Corporation. I mean, they’re the petroleum broadcast system, and they carry the oil company line. And the oil companies have always been just screaming angry about Hugo Chávez. And why? It’s because of his hydrocarbon law. In 2001 he passed a law through the legislature that said that Venezuelans will no longer take 16 percent of the value of their oil in selling it abroad but 30 percent. That’s because they cut the first contracts and set the first royalties when oil was $10 a barrel. Now it’s $100 a barrel, so they said, you know, some of that profit has to go to the people. Heavy oil in Venezuela was sold to foreign companies like Exxon at a 1 percent royalty—the Venezuelans got a penny out of the dollar of their own oil. He said, well, that changes to 16 percent. Now, there’s another leader who did that named Sarah Palin in Alaska, who also raised royalties on the same U.S. oil companies by about the same amount. But no one said that Palin was a dictator. But in the case of Chávez, they say he’s a dictator so that they can try to overthrow him.
- JAY: Yeah, you couldn’t over the last few years read a newspaper story, hardly a story where the word dictator didn’t get into the first paragraph when describing Chávez, in spite of the fact he would win election after election. But let me ask you something else.
- PALAST: Yes, in fact—yeah, in fact, let me give you—this is, I think, an important example. You had a guy named Romero of The New York Times, has the interview with Chávez, and he asks him: when are you going to give up power? Now, has he ever gone up to Obama or to Bush and say—and Bush wasn’t even elected, unlike—you know, did he ever go to Bush, any New York Times reporter, and say, when are you going to give up power, when you have an elected president in the middle of a term? And he kept calling him a strongman, an authoritarian, dictator-like (whatever that means; that’s like Italian-like or something). And, you know, this is all about—in other words, he didn’t go along with what the oil companies wanted. And they would say things like, bitterly divided nation, oh, destroyed the Venezuelan economy. The Venezuelan economy is increasing about 5 percent this year, as it has been steadily for a few years. I’ll take that type of wreckage for the United States growing at 5 percent a year. And, you know, he’s done a tremendous job for the Venezuelan people.
The BBC's 'Bogeyman' Narrative on Hugo Chavez
The Editors, 7 March 2013
The BBC maintained a strong a record of misleading reporting throughout the presidency of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died on Tuesday, following a two year battle with cancer. Yet today's article by Jon Kelly, 'Hugo Chavezand the era of anti-American bogeymen', takes a particularly spiteful slant on the issue of what is presented as 'Anti-Americanism' in Chavez's stance toward US foreign policy. ..... HERE