The new evil empire for America is Venezuela and its leader Hugo Chavez. Right after Cuba and Fidel Castro. The American media and politicians liberal and right wing go into spasms of red baiting when one utters two little words; Hugo Chavez.
They deliberately refer to him as a Tyrant and Dictator, smearing him in the headlines and op ed pieces while in footnotes reminding their readers or listners that he yes he was democratically elected. And he will be elected again.
Venezuela's Chavez confident of re-election
What they fail to see is that Chavez for all his rhetoric and bluster is no more and no less a dictator than Ralph Klein, who ruled North Americas only One Party State, and technically still does, of Alberta.
The American media complain that Chavez has increased the state bueracracy, the public sector, well gosh darn so has Klein. Venezuela government payroll balloons
And Alberta and Venezuela have much in common. Really. Not just both our oil and oil sands but a booming economy. And a booming economy is what will get Chavez relected next Sunday.With a population the equivalen of Canada, the oil boom has made Venezuela that 'other petro-economy' like Canada. The boom is benefiting not just the poor but the middle class. And the middle class always votes with its pocket-book.
And while complaining about Venezuela American capitalism thrives in the country, in consumer products. What the Americans are failing to do is invest. Thus Venezuela is partnering with other countries, China,Russia, Iran, etc. who have excess capital for investment.
Print Edition 27/11/06 Page A1
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's President and the man headed for an easy victory in next Sunday's election, may be spreading the Bolivarian socialist model, but at the airy Sambil shopping centre, there are few revolutionaries. Only shoppers. "Venezuela is the second biggest market for plasma televisions in Latin America," says Amilcar Marcos, manager of the mall's LG store.
Outside the mall yesterday, thousands of Chavez supporters in red ball caps and T-shirts filled the streets for a massive closing rally downtown in support of the President, who is ahead of his main rival in opinion polls by as much as 30 percentage points.
With the price of oil now hovering around $60 (U.S.) a barrel, the economy in Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil producer, has thrived in recent years.
Mr. Chavez, whose efforts to change Venezuela's economic and social structures are named for independence hero Simon Bolivar, has put an estimated $20-billion into social programs in the past three years. He has funnelled petro-dollars into missions that offer everything from literacy classes and free health care in the poor barrios to preferential contracts for 100,000 newly formed co-operatives. Thousands of Venezuelans have been added to the state payroll. This month, the government handed out its annual Christmas bonuses early, paying about one million government workers the equivalent of three months salary, about $3-billion (U.S.).
In the first five months of this year, consumer spending increased by 30 per cent, compared to the same period last year, according to an AC Nielsen audit of Venezuelan store sales. Sales of Scotch increased 55 per cent last year to 2.6-million boxes of imported and domestic whisky, making Venezuelans among the top 10 consumers of Scotch in the world.
Car sales are expected to reach 300,000 this year, compared to just 84,000 in 2004. Demand for new vehicles is so intense there is a now a four-month wait at dealerships, in a country where a litre of gas costs about 15 cents. Iran backs Venezuela car factory
This consumer boom underscores a key paradox: While Mr. Chavez is ahead in the polls and Venezuelans approve of his leadership, they have no desire to transform their oil economy into a socialist one.
Despite their President's close relationship with Cuba's Fidel Castro, 84 per cent of Venezuelans -- including Chavistas -- do not support the Cuban model, according to a recent poll by AP-Ipsos. A survey by Datanalysis shows that 81 per cent don't support the expropriation of private property, and only 7 per cent agree with a recent statement by Mr. Chavez that being rich was a bad thing.
"There is a great divide between the ideology in Chavez speeches and the people who follow Chavez. They don't actually want to live in a Cuba," notes Cristina Marcano, co-author of the biography Chavez Sin Uniforme.
Even if they are lukewarm on Mr. Castro, Mr. Chavez's message of social justice and the need to include the poor majority -- for years excluded by the corrupt ruling elite from the country's oil largesse -- clearly resonates. It has permanently altered Venezuela's political landscape.
- In Venezuela, the revolution is everywhere, even on the packaging for beans, margarine and cooking oil on the shelves of the state-run supermarkets. Images of independence heroes on horseback gallop across packages of pasta. Socialist slogans decorate bags of flour, all sold at deep discount at the 15,000 Mercal shops -- non-profit grocery stores the government has opened across the country.
"For a Venezuela without illiteracy," reads a bag of rice, with a lengthy reference to the constitutional rights of the people. A one-kilo bag costs 50 cents, half the price charged in the "capitalist" store down the street.
"We lived a lot worse before Hugo Chavez came along," said Noris Palma, 29, one of a dozen customers at the Mercal outlet in Parroquia El Valle, a poor neighbourhood at the city's western edge, which is also home to a government-run soup kitchen and a free medical clinic. "Now there are more opportunities for the poor -- to go to university, maybe to get a house. I have asked the government to help build one for me and my fiancé."
Mr. Chavez, Venezuela's mercurial President, is best known on the world stage for his virulent anti-American rhetoric, his cozying up to pariah nations such as Iran and Libya, his oil diplomacy and attempts to export socialism.
But here at home, the 52-year-old twice-divorced former paratrooper remains a wildly popular, if divisive, figure. Mr. Chavez is expected to easily win the Dec. 3 presidential election, with a 20- to 30-point lead over his closest rival. The charismatic populist, first elected to office in 1998, is busy overseeing oil-financed social programs called "missions" that have reached an almost surreal level. This week, for example, he announced the construction of 50 new universities and pledged to distribute 52 million energy-efficient light bulbs.
The leftist tide that appeared to be sweeping the Americas earlier this year has given way to leaders with a more moderate vision, including the new presidents of Mexico and Costa Rica. At one time a notorious leftist, Alan Garcia regained the presidency in Peru by embracing free trade and open markets. Even Nicaragua's president-elect, former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, campaigned on a platform of stability and moderation, using John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance as his theme song.