Thursday, April 23, 2009

President Hugo Chavez: Man of The People

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela gets a bad rap in the U.S. media. I’m not saying he’s a role model. But I don’t think he’s the villain lots of conservatives think he is. Like most people in the world he’s not good or bad. He’s complicated. Chavez, born to black Indian parents, is one of the few Latin American leaders whose look is distinctly non-European. Since the days of Columbus the descendants of Spaniards have governed Latin America and excluded native people. I don’t agree with all his tactics; but I also fail to completely understand what native people in Latin America suffer as a result of colonialism.

Centuries of European and Western (i.e.United States) influence in Latin American have lead to a series of social ills that are reminiscent of post colonial Africa. Corruption, classicism, and racism have left indigenous people sick, poor, and ignorant. Think what you will about his brand of populism, you can not ignore that his policies on the redistribution of wealth combat disease, illiteracy and malnutrition among people who have been exploited by the ruling classes (i.e. Europeans, Creoles and U.S capitalists).

The book President Chavez gave President Obama is called The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano. I hope he reads it. It explains the history and exploitation of Latin America. I believe that an understanding of what kind of world created a man like Chavez is crucial to creating better relations between the two countries. Colonialism has had costly consequences in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. In order to lead the world to a brighter and more amiable future in the community of nations, U.S. policy makers must begin to reflect a fundamental understanding of the points of view of nations struggling still to recover from their pasts.

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