The Bolivarian Revolution Continues
The US and International media kept quoting each other saying Hugo Chavez was in the toughest election of his career. Even Democracy Now's Amy Goodman repeated it, based on no evidence except polls conducted by the oligarchy.
The Bolivarian Revolution is the name Chavez has given to his mostly top-down Socialist reforms, which have included nationalization of key industries, and resources such as the country's large oil reserves, all of whose owners have been paid a fair price. Bolivarian comes from Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan hero who liberated much of South America from colonial rule in the early 1800s. Chavez' millions of mostly poor, but also well educated Venezuelan supporters, knew that universal health care, better education, a voice in government through their local councils, and the many other reforms implemented by successive Chavez governments, were better than returning to the days when the country's wealth went only to the rich, or to the days of US-backed dictatorships.
Despite the fact that almost all the media in Venezuela (where there are no press restrictions) is owned by the oligarchy and attacks him relentlessly, Chavez has now been re-elected three times (he begins his fourth term) in free and transparent elections, in full view of international observers, going back to 1998, and during that time has survived one US-backed coup and a crippling US sponsored shut down of the oil industry.
Writing just before the election in The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot contrasted the strong support Chavez gets from his fellow Latin American leaders with his demonization by the US government and the Western media, both of which routinely refer to Chavez as a "dictator." He noted that Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has observed 92 elections in countries around the globe, called Venezuela's electoral process the "best in the world." Voters vote by touching a screen. The machine then prints out a ballot, which the voter verifies and drops into a box, making it almost impossible to rig an election.
Weisbrot said in part:
"The opposition will probably lose this election not because of the government's advantages of incumbency – which are abused throughout the hemisphere, including the United States, but because the living standards of the majority of Venezuelans have dramatically improved under Chávez. Since 2004, when the government gained control over the oil industry and the economy had recovered from the devastating, extra-legal attempts to overthrow it (including the 2002 US-backed military coup and oil strike of 2002-2003), poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%. And this measures only cash income. Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrolment has doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality has also been considerably reduced. By contrast, the two decades that preceded Chávez amount to one of the worst economic failures in Latin America, with real income per person actually falling by 14% between 1980 and 1998."
The Venezuela Analysis web site is a good way to keep up with Venezuela, and there are articles there that discuss the various aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution.