I found the mainstream media's description of Chavez as a "dictator" particularly rich, given the US endured at least two fraudulent elections in recent times. Toronto activist Judy Rebick had this excellent letter in the Globe and Mail:
Your front-page article on the death of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez (Death Of A Revolutionary – March 6), calls him “a polarizing dictator.” He was certainly polarizing, as is our own Prime Minister, but Mr. Chavez was never a dictator. Mr. Chavez was elected several times over the past three decades, each time by a significant majority of the popular vote, which is more than we can say for Stephen Harper.McQuaig:
In 2002, Mr. Chavez’s opponents, including the right-wing media, organized a coup against him that was overturned by the massive mobilization of the poor people of Caracas. In 2004, the opposition organized a recall vote, a mechanism created by Mr. Chavez. It failed. In the 2006 election, he won with 63 per cent of the popular vote; in 2012, with 55 per cent of the popular vote.
You may disagree with Mr. Chavez’s 21st-century socialism policies, but please do not describe him as a dictator.
Judy Rebick, Toronto
Had Hugo Chavez followed the pattern of many Third World leaders and concentrated on siphoning off his nation’s wealth for personal gain, he would have attracted little attention or animosity in the West.
Instead, he did virtually the opposite — redirecting vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela’s poor, along with free health care and education. No wonder he alienated local elites, who are used to being first in line at the national trough.
Chavez’s relentless championing of the downtrodden set a standard increasingly followed in Latin America. It explains his immense popularity with the masses and the widespread grief over his death last week.
Yet in the West, he was portrayed as a tyrant.
He was accused of muzzling the press, although anyone who’s ever turned on a TV in Caracas knows there’s no shortage of Fox News-style media outlets carrying a frothy mix of celebrities, U.S. sitcoms and anti-Chavez tirades.
He was also accused of being anti-democratic, even though he won elections which former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and his global election monitoring centre have declared “the best in the world.”
Chavez deservedly came under attack in the West — including from Noam Chomsky — for failing to order the release of a judge imprisoned for allowing a corrupt banker to flee Venezuela with millions of dollars.
But it’s striking to note that the West routinely ignores more serious democratic failings on the part of its allies, including torture and execution in full-fledged dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.
What actually appears to have infuriated the western establishment was Chavez’s audacity in challenging — and scoring some victories against — western dominance of the world economy.
One such victory allowed Third World oil-producing nations to gain a bigger share of global oil revenues.Read the rest of the column here.
Up until the 1970s, the major western oil companies, known as the Seven Sisters, controlled the world oil market through a cartel established at a secret retreat at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland in 1928. The Achnacarry agreement set out in detail how the companies would maintain their lucrative control of oil markets into the future, setting quotas among themselves, never competing with each other and preventing competitors from getting in on the action.
In the 1970s, oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Venezuela organized and managed to replace the Seven Sisters with their own cartel, OPEC, striking a better deal for themselves and sending oil prices soaring. Some enraged westerners were left wondering, “How did our oil get under their sand?”
McQuaig is the author of It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet, among other books. I wrote about her excellent book Holding the Bully's Coat here and posted an extended excerpt here.