Dubai: In Venezuela, they call it “Chavismo.” It’s the swagger and confidence of President Hugo Chavez.
Six weeks after undergoing a fourth bout of cancer surgery in Cuba, Chavismo is thriving in his homeland.
And it’s exactly that Chavismo that so irked the US, and particularly President George W. Bush.
Picture this — when the residents of New Orleans were waiting five days for the US federal government to deliver its first bottle of water, Chavez was on international television channels offering his troops to deliver aid. The US politely refused.
And when the refineries and oil production in the Gulf were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina, Chavez was back on television, offering free petrol to the US — but only to those affected by the natural disaster. The US also politely refused.
A blustering former paratrooper has a solid base of support within his country for popular policies, his United Socialist Party offers free houses, education and health care — spending its vast revenue form oil reserves on improving the lives of its masses — and Chavez’s base support.
Over the past decade of his rule, he has galvanised left-wing South American leaders, turning the continent into a potent anti-American bloc, opposed to its exploitation of mineral rights and dominance of trade and finance.
Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Equador have all broken ranks and enjoy leaders with a left-leading bent. And by undergoing cancer treatment in Communist Cuba, Chavez has ideologically thumbed his nose as the best US cancer treatment centres at the Mayo Clinic. But above all, he wants to transform the lives of the lower classes in Venezuela.
“The 14 years of his tenure coincided with a consensus across the continent favouring socially inclusive economic growth, democratic representation, and independence from the US national security and foreign policy priorities of the previous century,” notes Julia Sweig for the US Council on Foreign Policy.
“Chavez embraced each of these features of the new Latin America to the extreme. Though his taste for the stage, for inflammatory rhetoric, and for provocation was out of sync with the region’s preference for practical problem-solving, his claim to have been a transitional leader might not be far off.”