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Hugo Chavez, R.I.P. - Leader Broke Venezuela Out of America's Imperial Orbit, Threw Neoliberal 'Economics' in the Trash

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And then he died, and Latin America has largely led this remarkable movement for independence that he was—that he helped broker. When he came to power in—elected in 1998, when you think about it, the whole region was governed by neoliberals or, you know, pretty much allies and executors of the Washington Consensus neoliberalism. And he was the first person that began to challenge that in power. Lula in Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was elected in 2002; Néstor Kirchner in 2002; Evo Morales a few years later; Rafael Correa in Ecuador. But it really was, in some ways, Chávez that led that remarkable, incredible movement that’s world historical. It’s unprecedented.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And one point I made in my  column in the  Daily News today on Chávez is that, to the degree that he was seen by the United States and Europe as the most radical of Latin American leaders, he created space for an enormous diversity of other left-oriented leaders that seemed almost more acceptable to the West up against the figure, the lightning-rod figure, of Chávez.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, for a long time, Washington policymakers and opinion makers were trying to create this idea that there were two lefts—a good left and a bad left—in Latin America, vegetarian left and a carnivore left. And the kind of emblematic leaders of that was Lula in Brazil, a reformist, you know, administered within the institutions of law, and Chávez. You know, fiery populist is a word—a description that I’m sure has been used kind of like Mad Libs, you know, in obituaries of Chávez. But in reality, they actually worked together very nicely. I mean, if you read the WikiLeaks cables, it was no—the U.S. was constantly trying to push this notion of a division or a divide between Brazil and Venezuela, and Brazil constantly rebuffed it. And certainly, Chávez’s more flamboyant style on the world stage created a much more willingness to work with so-called more moderate reformers like Lula. And I would argue that their differences had more to do with the political structures that they inherited than anything. And I think they both, in very real ways, had exactly the same goal.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and continue this roundtable discussion and also bring you clips of our exclusive discussions with President Hugo Chávez, as well as the vice president, Nicolás Maduro, who will run for president in this next 30 days. And the question is: Where will Venezuela go? This is  Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: You can go to our website to see  an in-depth look at Democracy Now!’s coverage of Hugo Chávez over the years and related stories at democracynow.org, as we continue on this day after the death of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Gregory Wilpert, you have written extensively on the Venezuelan revolution, but especially you have focused on what most of the rest of the people in the United States and other parts of the world have not seen, which is the domestic impact of Chávez’s revolution on the everyday life of the Venezuelan people. I’m wondering if you could talk about that. For instance, you’ve written that the number of cooperatives in Venezuela escalated from about a thousand to 100,000 during the Chávez years. Could you speak about that?

GREGORY WILPERT: Yeah. I mean, Miguel Tinker Salas mentioned a couple of those changes, such as the decline in poverty, which is very important. I mean, there are certain things that people always focus on, and certainly the poverty one is very important, which declined by half during the—during Chávez’s presidency. Also, extreme poverty declined by more than two-thirds.

 
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