At 58, Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, is dead. How am I supposed to feel about this man? As a citizen of the USA, I’m expected to hate him because of his extreme socialism, reforms that nationalized many industries including foreign-owned businesses and railings against, what he called, US imperialism.
When Chavez became Venezuela’s president in 1998, close to 60% of his nation’s people lived in poverty and 25% of them lived in extreme poverty. Now, 15 years later, only a little over a quarter of the country’s people are below the poverty line with less than 7% falling into the extreme range. In addition, he established free public education for citizens of all social status, providing grade school through doctorial level studies. To further improve quality of life, Chavez created a national health care system free to everyone. Increasing the standard of living for so many, in such a short period of time, is an amazing achievement.
Venezuela is blessed with having a valuable natural resource, oil. However, the vast majority of its people never benefited from this treasured commodity. The riches went to foreigners from other countries. To heal his impoverished nation, Chavez seized the oil industry within Venezuela’s borders and used the wealth for the good of the people. His nationalization of industry angered the US because we lost control of oil in this region.
In the US, we are taught to believe people like Hugo Chavez are bad because their political and economic agenda differs from ours. However, I’m finding it difficult to hate or think badly of a man – a politician – that fought so hard for the good of his people. I hope to someday witness a US politician that fights this hard for his constituency.