Danny Glover: Why Chavez Won

Danny Glover

More generally, life has improved for a great number of
Venezuelans over the last decade. Poverty has been cut
in half and extreme poverty cut by 70 percent. Free
health care, education, and public pension programs have
been greatly expanded, the minimum wage has steadily
increased, and unemployment has dropped below 8 percent.

The most promising aspect of the Venezuelan government’s
social development agenda is the proactive effort to
promote democratic engagement and citizen control over
local conditions and possibilities. We should all take
note that these efforts are taking place in the middle
of a global financial, economic, and ethical meltdown,
when many countries are sharply scaling back social
policies and embracing the neoliberal polices Venezuela
has repeatedly rejected.

A great deal of the foreign media coverage of Venezuela
gives the impression that Chavez’s social and economic
policies are incoherent, unsustainable, and based on
short-term electoral considerations. For years, the
financial press has predicted an imminent collapse of
the Venezuelan economy. But, in fact, Venezuela enjoys a
large trade surplus and has relatively little public
debt. That provides the government with lots of room for
continued expansionary fiscal, monetary, and social
development policies.

The press also often vilifies Chavez and portrays his
supporters-a strong majority of the country-as poor,
reverent masses who are blindly manipulated by populist
rhetoric and occasional cash handouts. This portrayal is
not only false, it is denigrating and injurious to the
basic workings of democracy: ordinary people expressing
their desires with visions of an improved quality of
life, development projects, and a choice of political
stewards to achieve their goals. Yet, nearly 14 years
after Chavez was first elected, misrepresentations and
outright fabrications still prevail in mainstream U.S.
papers, television news programs, and in the statements
of politicians from both major parties.

If you want to understand how the Chavez administration
continues to win free and fair elections, you need only
hear the stories of formerly marginalized communities
and look more carefully at the country’s social and
economic indicators. As I spoke with Afro-Venezuelans
about their support for President Chavez and his agenda,
I was reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., who said that we as a nation must undergo a “true
revolution of values.” As King explained, “A true
revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the
glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.and say, ‘This is
not just.'”

In the Oct. 7 elections, as in more than a dozen
previous electoral cycles, Venezuela has shown that the
majority of its people have a clear notion of justice
and how it can be achieved. It is now time for those of
us in the United States to look at our alliance with the
elites of Latin America and say: This is not just.

— Excerpt from


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