Bernie Sanders is wrong — Hugo Chávez was no dictator.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHAVEZ
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHAVEZ
1. Hugo Chávez was democratically elected. Not once. Not twice. Butfive times over the course of fourteen years.
2. Chávez won these elections by massive margins. He prevailed in the 1998 presidential election with 56% of the vote. He was reelected in 2000, netting 60% of votes cast. In 2004, Chávez won a recall referendum with 59%. In 2006 he was again victorious, receiving a whopping 63% of the vote. And in the 2012, while dying of cancer, he still triumphed, this time garnering 55%.
3. On the rare occasions when Chávez suffered a political defeat (e.g., the December 2007 referendum on constitutional changes), he accepted the loss immediately. It’s true that Chávez engaged in certain practices that are open to criticism, such as gerrymandering and using executive decrees to get around congressional opposition. But these practices are common in many actually-existing democracies, including the US, and hardly constitute evidence that Chávez was a dictator.
4. Chávez’s electoral success was not due to electoral fraud. The Venezuelan opposition (which supported a military coup against Chávez in 2002) and US mainstream media frequently level this charge, but there is no credible evidence to support it. Jimmy Carterhas said, “Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored [at the Carter Center], I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”
5. The reason Chávez was so successful politically is because he implemented some of the same sorts of policies you support. After Chávez took office, the Venezuelan state more than doubled spending on health and education. (Sure this was made possible by the high price of oil from 2003 to 2008, but it was also possible because of Chávez’s success in reasserting state control over the oil sector, which was quasi-privatized in the 1990s.)
6. The policies implemented under Chávez led to vast improvements in access to health care, education, housing, and pensions. Poverty in Venezuela was cut in half between 2003 and 2008, with extreme poverty falling by 72%.
7. Chávez also made progress on the issue you care the most about: inequality. By 2012 Venezuela was the most equitable country in Latin America.