Hugo Chavez Steps Up for Native Americans and the Poor
By Tim Giago
Some of the very poor Indian tribes like the Chippewa Cree of the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana, the Cheyenne River and the Oglala Sioux Tribes in South Dakota needed the funds in order to keep their people from freezing to death and accepted the donation from Mr. Chavez willingly. Where was the rich casino owning tribes? Busy counting their money I would guess.
There is an old saying out here that goes, "You will know me better when you walk a mile in my moccasins." Hugo Chavez is a member of an indigenous tribe in Venezuela. He has been called "Indio" and worse while growing up as the child of very poor parents. He has walked in the moccasins of the indigenous people.
In America it is very easy to hate someone who verbally attacks the president of the United States. Chavez has never held his tongue even amongst his own people or in criticizing other nations in South America. I am told that he was appalled when the major oil companies in America did not step forward to help their own poor and low-income people when called upon to do so. He saw this as the kind of colonialism he has grown to despise.
Chavez is not alone in his mistrust of America. In fact, America's status is at an all-time low in many Central and South American countries. Chavez did not create this situation and he is not above using it as a tool to annoy Bush and his administration.
Hugo Chavez is a controversial figure to America, especially amongst its politicians. But he has done much to improve the living conditions, the health care and the educational opportunities for his own people in Venezuela, especially for the very poor and the indigenous.
The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains
By David Sirota
For instance, according to data compiled by the UK Guardian, Chavez’s first decade in office saw Venezuelan GDP more than double and both infant mortality and unemployment almost halved. Then there is a remarkable graph from the World Bank that shows that under Chavez’s brand of socialism, poverty in Venezuela plummeted (the Guardian reports that its “extreme poverty” rate fell from 23.4 percent in 1999 to 8.5 percent just a decade later). In all, that left the country with the third lowest poverty rate in Latin America. Additionally, as Weisbrot points out, “college enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.”
When a country goes socialist and it craters, it is laughed off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics. When, by contrast, a country goes socialist and its economy does what Venezuela’s did, it is not perceived to be a laughing matter–and it is not so easy to write off or to ignore. It suddenly looks like a threat to the corporate capitalism, especially when said country has valuable oil resources that global powerhouses like the United States rely on.
For a flamboyant ideologue like Chavez, that meant him being seen by the transnational elite as much more than an insignificant rogue leader of a relatively small country. He came to be seen as a serious threat to the global system of corporate capitalism.
That, of course, is considered a high crime by the American political illuminati–a high crime prompting a special punishment.
As evidenced by the treatment of everyone from Martin Luther King to Michael Moore to Oliver Stone to anyone else who dares question neoliberalism and economic imperialism, that punishment is all about marginalization–the kind that avoids engaging on substance for fear of allowing the notion of socialism to even enter the conversation in the first place. Instead, the non-conformist is attacked and discredited with vapid invective and caricature, becoming a cartoon villain whose ideas, performance and record are ignored before they can be considered on the merits. He becomes, in other words, the Hugo Chavez we so often saw in American political ads.
Venezuela: Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy
Dramatic Concentration of Power and Open Disregard for Basic Human Rights
After enacting a new constitution with ample human rights protections in 1999–and surviving a short-lived coup d’état in 2002–Chávez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights.
By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda. In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.
Many Venezuelans continued to criticize the government. But the prospect of reprisals–in the form of arbitrary or abusive state action – forced journalists and human rights defenders to weigh the consequences of disseminating information and opinions critical of the government, and undercut the ability of judges to adjudicate politically sensitive cases.
For more on their anti-Western attitudes, see Bolivia's Coke to End with Maya Calendar and "Hopenhagen" Turns into "Nopenhagen."