I have no doubt that there is truth in your criticism, and I am not downvoting you. But I just want to say that, in my opinion, Chavez has been and continues to be one of the most revolutionary political figures of our lifetime.
I don’t understand in what sense you mean to call Chavez a “nationalist”. He may not fit the pure ‘revolutionary’ mold that you see fit to lead a socialist revolution, but he still doesn’t fit any definition of ‘nationalism’ that I know about. The Bolivarian revolution is inspired by Simon Bolivar, a supposed ‘national’ hero’, but the ‘nation’ here encompasses not just Venezuela but much of northern South America and part of southern Central America.
To call Chave a ‘nationalist’ is to minimize the positive, encouraging, significant work that he’s done to “unite the international working class in the struggle for socialism”, from CITGO’s heating oil assistance to low-income families in the U.S. (hundreds of thousands annually), to Mision Milagro, which provides free eye care to low-income people from 35 countries (nearly 1.8 million so far), the enormous amount of Venezuelan Aid to Haiti, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), to his still unanswered call for a “Fifth International” at a mass meeting in Caracas (to name just a few international connections that Chavez has spearheaded, off the top of my head). This does not mean that one should not be concerned by articles like the one you cite about workers’ protests (which I will follow up on, and expect the government to give serious attention to), I just hope that occasions like these are not used to undermine support for the progress that has been and continues to be made not just in Venezuela, but throughout South America, or, even worse, to fuel support for the opposition coalition that is uniting around Henrique Capriles (who truly is more ‘nationalistic’ in the standard sense) for the upcoming October election!
It’s not only on foreign policy matters where Obama has proven to be a “total fraud”, according to Chavez, who last December criticized the current U.S. President for “cut[ing] social assistance for home heating oil for the poor”. It’s true, 2012 budget–proposed by President Obama–cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people–slashing the total funding currently authorized by Congress by more than half. Chavez responded to the news of these cuts in the U.S. government’s energy assistance program by moving to increase the amount of support that Venezuela’s CITGO Heating Oil Program already gives to more than 500,000 low-income Americans in 25 U.S. states to help keep them harm every winter, for seven consecutive years. It’s really unbelievable, isn’t it, the contrast and comparison between these two Presidents?
he almost certainly funds FARC and other leftist paramilitaries in Colombia
And Saddam Hussein “almost certainly” had WMDS in Iraq, right? What bullshit! If you believe this (I assume you are not being deliberately misleading), it could only be because people keep repeating this lie. This. Ends. Now.
There is zero evidence to support the claim that Chavez “funds FARC and other leftist paramilitaries in Colombia”. The claim was made in 2008 by former Colombian President Uribe–an autocrat in his own right, with his own alleged connections to rightwing paramilitaries in his country–after years of tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela (relations which I tried to summarize in this post from a month ago), but never confirmed/verified.
If Chavez is funding FARC (against whom Colombia has been fighting a decades-long (since 1964) civil war), don’t you find it strange that the current Colombian President, Juan Santos, calls Chavez “my new best friend”?
The claim is “almost certainly” not true. Consider Venezuela’s response to a recent FARC attack in Colombia:
[Colombian President Juan Santos] said in a brief televised appearance that [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez told him he had sent two army brigades to the border. “The brigades have clear instructions to try to find these FARC bandits. And if they do they are going to capture them, and if they resist they will use their weapons,” Santos said. “Those are the instructions that President Chavez gave, to fire on them.”
he is a harsh dictator
If you expect to be taken seriously as a scholar, don’t repeat propaganda points. They’re simply not true.
If Chavez were a “harsh dictator”, how do you expect he would have dealt with his enemies, once he was restored to power by the people, after the 2002 coup attempt in which opposition leaders briefly overthrew his democratically elected government, dissolved the Constitution, National Assembly, and the Supreme Court, etc?
Were there executions of the coup conspirators (as punishment for treason)? No. In fact, Venezuela was the first country in the world to abolish capital punishment for ALL crimes. Chavez has made no exceptions. Yes, this is a “harsh dictator” even though his government has sentenced exactly ZERO people to their deaths!
Meanwhile, it was the state prosecutor, Danilo Anderson, who was leading the investigation into those who hadn’t fled the country, who got assassinated. Car Bomb. Hundreds of pro-Chavez campesinos have also been killed.
You would expect a political leader to respond harshly to violent threats from the opposition. Harsh measures might even be considered justified. But (rhetoric aside) the actual measures that Chavez has taken have been quite tame. Nearly everything that he’s done, he’s done by the book, in accordance with democratic processes (e.g. he and his supporters have won 12 out of 13 nation-wide, free and fair, elections and referenda since 1998).
he HATES the US with a passion
You are describing the caricature of Chavez, not the actual person. Chavez doesn’t “HATE the US” (for the last seven years, Venezuela has been providing subsidized heating oil to low-income people in the U.S., he hates the imperialist foreign policies that the U.S. government has too often supported in that region of the world.
“The brigades have clear instructions to try to find these FARC bandits. And if they do they are going to capture them, and if they resist they will use their weapons,” Santos said. “Those are the instructions that President Chavez gave, to fire on them.”
I’m impressed with how easily Presidents Chavez and Santos got on the same page, responding so quickly to these attacks by working together, coordinating their efforts. Venezuelan and Colombia have put so much effort into forging a strong relationship, it’d be a shame if these hostilites with the FARC were once again to put a strain on it.
President Chavez, who holds a double-digit lead against Capriles Radonski in every poll taken to date, instructed his government to break relations with Israel after the Israeli military killed some 1,500 Palestinians and wounded another 5,000 during its 2009 siege on Gaza [in 2009].
[…] During his 3-day trip to Israel, the opposition’s Ledezma made no mention of Israel’s segregationist policies towards the Palestinians, the widely-condemned but ongoing blockade against those in Gaza, nor did he question the inhuman prison conditions currently under international scrutiny as several Palestinian hunger strikers near death.