President Chavez of Venezuela died today
I was in Caracas last week. It is a vibrant crazy city. There is traffic everywhere, gas is so cheap, people drive big V8 American muscle cars from the 80′s or weave in and out of traffic on fast motor bikes. Everywhere you go President Chavez stares down at you from high buildings, graffiti on walls, his supporters wear red T shirts with his eyes printed on them.
People told me: ” Chavez is a part of our lives whether we like it or not” As President he inspired both love and hate.
Chavez’s “Bolìvarian revolution”, was based on his ideals “Giving the poor what they deserved : the nation’s wealth” He seized land from farmers, nationalized private companies, abolished term limits and put the state oil company under his personal control. In spite of record oil revenues, around a trillion dollars, the currency was recently devalued for the fifth time in a decade. Murder and kidnapping rates are enormous, approximately seventy people are murdered each week in Caracas alone. People drive with their car windows closed for fear of robbery – and armored vehicles are a new big business.
Chávez drank more than 30 cups of black coffee a day, worked till 3am, talked on his weekly TV show for eights hours straight about everything from politics and theology to rap, baseball and the state of his bowels ..
Chavez had won four presidential elections, was revered by millions who hailed him as a champion of the poor. People that live in the barrios felt he was on their side and understood their struggle. He slashed poverty, spent lavishly on health clinics, literacy courses and social programs (like the hip hop school ‘Tiuna El Fuerte’ we visited, more of that to come) and stood up to George Bush over Iraq.
He did it all with a certain charisma and flair. RIP President Hugo Chavez