Viva Chavez — Revolutionary Leader Dead at 58

Hugo Chavez, the extremely charismatic populist leader of Venezuela, died yesterday March 5th at age 58.  Venezuelans are currently in a period of mourning, cancelling school for the week, but are expected to name his successor within 30 days.

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Chavez has been described as a “Rock Star” president, who rose to power to sweep away the old order and tackle the nation’s problems like crime and rising inflation.  During his 14-year reign, Chavez established himself as resolutely anti-Imperialist and anti-American.  He stood for socialist revolution and denounced the overbearing global influence exercised by American capitalist hegemony.   Beyond denouncing the global injustices of the neoliberal economic system, he  has openly (and famously) called ex-U.S. president George W. Bush “a donkey” and “the devil”.

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By nationalizing several main industries (instead of the reckless privatization occurring in America), redressing private property rights (that allow for capitalist exploitation in the U.S.), and developing state housing projects, Chavez was able to redress inequality, reducing both poverty and unemployment levels.  While he is painted as a very controversial leader, and often very negatively in U.S. media, his ideas, economic reforms, and values in terms of collective goods over individual competition are absolutely practical, compelling, and should give us all some pause for thought.  Hopefully Chavez’s successor will be able to carry forward his revolutionary ideas and maintain socialist and anti-imperialist values in the face of U.S. transnational corporatism.

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“We must confront the privileged elite who have destroyed a large part of the world.”
Hugo Chavez

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