My observations on Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution from 2010.

What a dull and uninspiring lot our mainstream politicians are. When the future of the planet demands an alternative to neoliberalism and capitalism, what's on offer from our parliamentary democracy?

Absolutely nothing. Its just business as usual.

Come 2011 you will be asked what variant of neoliberalism you want to prevail for the next three years. There is no alternative on offer from any of the parties that presently occupy Parliament. This is, apparently, 'democracy in action.'

The great social democratic experiment of 'capitalism with a human face' has proven to be an historical aberration and the social democratic parties that once followed this reformist doctrine have surrendered to neoliberalism

All that the Labour Party believes in now is 'revitalising capitalism'. Can you think of anything more bereft of vision, of imagination, of passion? But what else can we expect from a Labour Party whose leader thinks that the free market is the pinnacle of human development and who can barely acknowledge the social democratic history of his own party?

But, while the likes of Phil Goff and the Labour Party might think otherwise, some of us still think there is a world to win.And many of us draw inspiration from developments in Latin America.

After enduring nearly two decades of the same failed neoliberal policies that continue to be pursued in New Zealand, Latin American countries began to reject neoliberalism and it has been Venezuela that has led the charge.

The election of President Hugo Chavez in December 1998 was the beginning of the end for neoliberalism in that country. It is Venezuela that stands as inspiration for all of those who do not accept that is no alternative to capitalism.

According to the Washington-based think tank, The Centre for Economic and Policy Research, during the highpoint of its neoliberal policies, Latin America’s economic growth between 1980 and 2000 was only 9 percent. Poverty and inequality grew significantly - which is also something, of course, that has happened here during the course of 25 years of neoliberal rule.

But Chavez's '21st century socialism' has produced a dramatic turnaround. While the failed policies of neoliberalism led ultimately to a global economic meltdown, Venezuela as enjoyed twenty consecutive quarters of economic growth.

The year 2004 stands out with an historical growth of 18.3%. The 2008 rate of growth was 4.9%. The economy has grown by 526.98% compared to the Venezuelan neoliberal economy in 1998.

During his eleven years in office Chavez has nationalized large areas of the economy, including major oil projects along with electricity and telecommunications companies. The billions of dollars that would have ended up in the pockets of the multinational corporations has been used to improves the lives of the Venezuelan people.

These include long-term programs in the areas of health, education and welfare.

It is estimated that via these social programs, known as 'missions', about half of the Venezuelan population is in one type of educational program, ranging from literacy, high school completion, to university degrees.

Unemployment has fallen nearly 50% during President Chávez’s administration, falling from 12% to 6.1% by early 2009.

In May 2007, the Venezuelan minimum wage became the highest in Latin America. In addition, workers receive a monthly bonus for food amounting to some US$140. Also, pensions have been increased to the minimum wage.

But the forces of neoliberalism continue to agitate against Hugo Chavez and Venezuela.

Indeed in 2002 a US-back coup , supported by Venezuelan business interests, attempted to remove Chavez but he was returned to power in a counter coup by the Venezuelan people some forty-eight hours later.

President Barack Obama, the 'great liberal hope' , is proving to be no friend of Chavez.

The first official report outlining the defence and intelligence priorities of the Obama administration devoted a lot of words to Venezuela.The Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community targeted President Chavez as a major 'threat' to US interests. Said the report:

'Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has established himself as one of the US’s foremost international detractors, denouncing liberal democracy and market capitalism and opposing US policies and interests in the region.'

Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has regularly attacked Chavez.

Clinton, who has been warmly praised by Foreign Minister Murray McCully, recently expressed great concern' for democracy and human rights in Venezuela, accusing President Chavez of not “contributing in a constructive manner” to regional progress.

She also warned Venezuela not to develop a close relationship with Cuba.

In response, Venezuela has made it clear that it will not be intimidated by the Obama administration.

The Venezuelan National Assembly President, Cilia Flores said in January;

'When we thought there couldn't be anything worse than Bush along came Obama 'masked' as the 'hero of the film' but who emerged as 'more of the same,'.

Venezuela stands as an inspiration and a focal point for everyone seeking real change and that is why the forces of neoliberalism,  the forces of the rich and powerful, would like to see Hugo Chavez removed from office.


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