March 05, 2013

Indian country mourns Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died of cancer Tuesday. He didn't get as much praise as, say, Elouise Cobell or Russell Mean, but many Indians noted his passing. Here are some reasons why:

Hugo Chavez Steps Up for Native Americans and the Poor

By Tim GiagoAlthough major oil corporations like Exxon had reaped more profit last year than at any time in their history, they declined the invitation to lend a helping hand to the poor people of America. Hugo Chavez stepped in to fill the gap. What motives would prompt him to do this? Certainly it would not help him politically, at least not in America where one of this Nation's top religious figures, Pat Robertson, called for his assassination.

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.
Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle

The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains

By David Sirota
Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results. Indeed, as shown by some of the most significant indicators, Chavez racked up an economic record that a legacy-obsessed American president could only dream of achieving.

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 Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.

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.
Comment:  I've reported more on Bolivia's Evo Morales, but Chavez had similar attitudes toward America, capitalism, democracy, and indigenous rights.

For more on their anti-Western attitudes, see Bolivia's Coke to End with Maya Calendar and "Hopenhagen" Turns into "Nopenhagen."


dmarks said...

There are so many reasons to oppose him.

Starting with the fact that he was the quintessential fascist, focusing on gaining personal power as the "top dog" in his nation.

Outrages from him are numerous, such as when he said that Condoleezza Rice should be raped in order to bring her in line, that Jews were responsible for all the evils of the last 2000 years, and when he rammed through laws to make it a serious crime to criticize the dictator.

Like any fascist with a populist ssnse, he spoke of helping the poor, being of "the people"., But if he had his way, and truly had gained all the power he'd wanted, the poor would have made up the vast majority of those his regime would have killed off.

Rob said...

Another Native leader remembers Chavez:

A Song for Hugo Chavez

By Winona Laduke

“Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today…,” Mr. Chavez said, in 2009 comments at the United Nations. Then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made the sign of the cross, brought his hands together as if in prayer and glanced toward the ceiling.

That is perhaps the most famous quote of a politician opposed to the US government, and one reason that Hugo Chavez was disliked by the US government. To Chavez, the Devil was George Bush. That’s what you get to say, when you are a third world leader who supplies maybe a million gallons of crude oil to an oil addicted country every day. You get to say anything you want.

I was a great admirer of Hugo Chavez, thankful for his generosity, his courage, his leadership, and his commitment to Indigenous peoples.

dmarks said...

Disappointing that La Duke is so enamored of fascism, and a leader who advocated rape as part of international diplomacy. I guess she either has an uncritical mind, or considers dictators' press releases as a substitute for learning about affairs outside the US.