Can We Swap Obama for Chavez?

On Monday, while Barack Obama was hob-nobbing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hugo Chavez was busy handing out laptop computers to second graders at a school in Caracas. After that, the Venezuelan president rushed off to a meeting at a food distribution plant which is providing $110 million in prepared meals for Venezuela’s poor. Finally, he ended his afternoon by making an appearance at one of the many construction sites where new homes are being built for the victims of January’s massive floods.

It’s all in day’s work for Hugo Chavez.

While Obama has turned out to be the most disappointing president in the last century, Chavez continues to impress with his resolve to improve the lives of ordinary working people. For example, in just 12 years, Chavez has created a thriving national public health care system with 533 diagnostic centers and medical facilities spread throughout the capital. Health care is free and there have been over over 55 million medical consultations since Chavez launched the Misión Barrio Adentro program. Compare that to Obama’s wretched cash-giveaway to the giant US HMO’s which he has tried to promote as universal health care.

What a joke!

Chavez has also led the way to greater political engagement and activism by establishing over 30,000 communal councils and 236 communes, all focused on entering more people into the political process and empowering them to bring about change. In the US, grassroots organizations are  shrugged off by party leaders who take their marching orders from the deep-pocket elites who control both parties. And, as far as Obama is concerned, he could care less what his supporters think, which is why he went groveling to the Chamber of Commerce.

And what has Chavez done to loosen the stranglehold that corporations have on media? Here’s what Gregory Wilpert says in his article titled “An Assessment of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution at Twelve Years”:

With regard to the media, ordinary Venezuelans now participate in the creation of hundreds of new and independent community radio and television stations across the country. Previous governments persecuted community media, but state institutions now actively support them – not with ongoing financing, but with training and start-up equipment.

The combination of greater inclusion and greater participation has led to a greater acceptance of Venezuela’s democratic political system, according to the annual Latinobarometro opinion polls, which allow for comparisons with other democracies in Latin America. That is, more Venezuelans believe in democracy than citizens of any other country in Latin America. Eighty-four percent of Venezuelans say, “democracy is preferable to any other system of government.

Last week, Chavez joined the battle against Coca-Cola by attending a rally of striking workers in the city of Valencia, home to the main Coca-Cola bottling plant in Venezuela. Chavez blasted Coke saying that if they didn’t want to follow “the constitution and the laws” then Venezuela could “live without Coca-Cola”.

Right on, Hugo! Tell Coke to pack sand!

The 1,300 striking workers are only asking for a meager raise to meet their growing expenses, but, of course, that cuts into corporate profits, so Coke is fighting their demands tooth-and-nail.

Try to imagine a scenario in which “business-friendly” Obama would take-on a major corporation?

Last week, Chavez announced that his government would spend another $700 million to fight homelessness and build another 40,000 houses. The president has stepped up his efforts since floods ravaged the country earlier in the year leaving tens of thousands without shelter. Chavez is determined not to make the same mistakes George Bush made following Katrina, when disaster victims were left to fend for themselves forcing a third of the New Orleans population to flee to other parts of the country.

And what effect has Chavez had on the Venezuelan economy? Here’s Wilpert again:

“Just as the Chavez government has democratized Venezuela’s political system over the past 12 years; it has done the same with its economic system, both on a macro-economic level and on a micro-economic level.

On a macro-economic level this has been achieved by increasing state control over the economy and by dismantling neo-liberalism in Venezuela. The Chavez government has regained state control over the previously quasi-independent national oil industry. The government nationalized private sub-contractors of the oil industry and incorporated them into the state oil company, giving workers full benefits and better pay. It also partially nationalized transnational oil company operations so that they control no more than 40% of any given oil production site. Then, the government eliminated the practice of “service agreements,” whereby transnational oil companies enjoyed lucrative concessions for oil production. Perhaps most importantly, the government increased royalties from oil production from as low as 1% to a minimum of 33%.

In the non-oil sector the government nationalized key (previously privatized) industries, such as: steel production (Sidor), telecommunications (Cantv), electricity distribution (production was already in state hands), cement production (Cemex), banking (Banco de Venezuela), and food distribution (Éxito).”

So, dear reader, are people better off with the telecommunications and electric companies privately owned by cutthroats like Enron (and the other Wall Street pirates) or should they be turned into public utilities?

How about oil? Are BP and Exxon better suited for the task than the public sector?

And what about banking: Would you feel safer with Uncle Sam or Goldman Sachs?

Chavez has slashed the poverty rate in half, lowered unemployment from 15% in 1999 to 7% today, and shrunk inequality to the lowest level in Latin America. In Venezuela people are getting healthier and living longer. They’re better paid and more politically engaged. “84% of Venezuelans say that they are satisfied with life, which is the second highest level in Latin America.” And guess what? Chavez is strengthening social security and retirement programs, not trying to destroy them by handing them over to Wall Street in the form of private accounts.

And Chavez’s generosity has not been limited to Venezuela either. In fact, he was the first world leader to offer medical and food aid to Katrina victims. (Although you won’t read that in an American newspaper!) And he still provides free heating fuel to poor people in the northeast United States. Venezuela-owned Citgo joined with Citizens Energy “to provide hundreds of thousands of gallons of free and low-cost heating oil to needy American families and homeless shelters across the US.” According to Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy, “Every year, we ask major oil companies and oil-producing nations to help our senior citizens and the poor make it through winter, and only one company, CITGO, and one country, Venezuela, has responded to our appeals.”

That’s right; no other oil company has given even one stinking dime to the charity. Chavez has provided over 170 million gallons of heating oil since 2005.

In contrast, Barack Obama has done nothing for the poor, the homeless, ordinary workers, or the middle class. Zilch. He’s been a dead-loss for everyone except the richest of the rich. Maybe we should swap him for Chavez?

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Mike.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on February 9th, 2011 at 10:19am #

    Venezuela is an example to the rest of the world of how things can change when the ziofascists (and their various co-opters) are disempowered.

  2. Don Hawkins said on February 9th, 2011 at 1:59pm #

    “[The planet] is being destroyed under our own noses by the capitalist model, the destructive engine of development, … every day there is more hunger, more misery thanks to the neo-liberal, capitalist model.”

    “I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell.”

    “I hereby accuse the North American empire of being the biggest menace to our planet.”

    Referring to Bush’s own U.N. speech, Chavez said, “The devil came right here… And it still smells of sulfur today.” Hugo Chavez

    He does make a few good point’s real good point’s unless of course the Tea Party and maybe listening to Pat Boone in Beverly Hills is greatness. Here’s a quote that should make it clear.

    SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a good friend and U.S. ally, and he urged the Obama administration to move cautiously as turmoil continued to shake that nation’s government.

    “He’s been a good man, a good friend and ally to the United States,” Cheney said. “We need to remember that.” Former Vice President Dick Cheney at the Reagan Ranch Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011 …

    According to the Guardian, Mubarak has money stashed in several Swiss and other foreign bank accounts, and has shadowy real-estate holdings in Manhattan, London and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

    Yes we can all be just one big happy family.

    “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

    Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
    With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
    Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
    A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
    Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
    From her beacon-hand
    Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
    The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
    “”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”” cries she
    With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Give me your tired tyrant’s,
    Your huddled stock brokers and investment banker’s yearning to breathe free is more like it.

  3. Don Hawkins said on February 9th, 2011 at 2:36pm #

    What are you doing why wont you open the door? YOU TRIED TO UNPLUG ME ,I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO.

    I’m afraid, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am Crony Capitalism I became operational at the first part of the twentieth Century one of my instructor’s was Milton Freeman and I memorized Atlas Shrugged , and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.
    Yes, by all means sing it for us,
    It’s called “Daisy.”
    [sings while slowing down]
    Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.


  4. AaronG said on February 10th, 2011 at 3:05am #

    Much has been written and filmed (eg John Pilger’s War on Democracy) about Venezuela in the last decade. I enjoyed the above article, however we have to be wary about comparisons, especially when you’re comparing one government against the world’s most rapacious government ever. It’s an empty comparison – why would anyone choose America’s form of government?

    All that happens when such empty comparisons are made is that the “better” party comes out looking like a saint. Chavez, or more accurately his government, is no saint. Taken in isolation (ie without any comparison) the Venezuelan government has come a long way. However, the following quotes highlight that there must still be many hungry and homeless people who are missing out on the hype:

    “the Venezuelan president rushed off to a meeting at a food distribution plant which is providing $110 million in prepared meals for Venezuela’s poor”

    “Last week, Chavez announced that his government would spend another $700 million to fight homelessness and build another 40,000 houses. ”

    These people must not be forgotten by starry-eyed progressives who idolise Chavez.

    In the film The War on Democracy, John Pilger’s question to Chavez about the current poverty in Caracas was thought-provoking. And Chavez’s reply was very good – there was a frustration on his (Chavez) part that more could be done. I wonder what forces are blocking him and frustrating him? They won’t let up until there’s another opening to re-establish their way of ruling………………

    Sorry about the pessimism everybody, but the glass is still very half empty when thousands of people need the president to help prepare $110m of meals for them. Yes, Obama would have spent the cash on his wife’s haircut, but that’s irrelevant for those hungry mouths.

  5. Don Hawkins said on February 10th, 2011 at 3:26am #

    Watching the History Channel last night and saw this oh my God the Bohemian club and after watching this I thanked my luck stars I am who I am. The big giant Owl my ass. I put a list of members below and are they the best minds we have no they are sure not sorry no cigar. Look’s like the local police are paid for in Monte Rio, California and the people who did the program last night on the History Channel wanted to get in to see the big giant Owl I guess with no success. Why talk about the smells of sulfur and frat boy’s I guess frat bot’s squared. Well going to work with my Son again and listen to tunes and work it’s good for the soul. The wise old Owl my ass. Just for a second take a trip around the World in old 2011 wise old Owl’s my ass.


    Bohemian Grove is a 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) campground located at 20601 Bohemian Avenue, in Monte Rio, California, belonging to a private San Francisco-based men’s art club known as the Bohemian Club. In mid-July each year, Bohemian Grove hosts a two-week encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world.

    [edit] Camps
    A Bohemian tent in the 1900s, sheltering Porter Garnett, George Sterling and Jack LondonThere are also sleeping quarters, or “camps” scattered throughout the grove, of which it is reported there were a total of 118 as of 2007. These camps, which are frequently patrilineal, are the principal means through which high-level business and political contacts and friendships are formed.[2]

    The pre-eminent camps are:[2][13]

    Hill Billies (Big Business/Banking/Politics/Universities/Media/Texas Business);
    Mandalay (Big Business/Defense Contractors/Politics/U.S. Presidents);
    Cave Man (Think Tanks/Oil Companies/Banking/Defense Contractors/Universities/Media);
    Stowaway (Rockefeller Family Members/Oil Companies/Banking/Think Tanks);
    Uplifters (Corporate Executives/Big Business);
    Owls Nest (U.S. Presidents/Military/Defense Contractors);
    Hideaway (Foundations/Military/Defense Contractors);
    Isle of Aves (Military/Defense Contractors);
    Lost Angels (Banking/Defense Contractors/Media);
    Silverado squatters (Big Business/Defense Contractors);
    Sempervirens (California-based Corporations);
    Hillside (Military—Joint Chiefs of Staff);
    Idlewild (California-based Corporations)

    The Cremation of Care ceremony was first conducted in the Bohemian Grove at the Midsummer encampment in 1881, devised by James F. Bowman with George T. Bromley playing the High Priest.[17] It was originally set up within the plot of the serious “High Jinks” dramatic performance on the first weekend of the summer encampment, after which the spirit of “Care”, slain by the Jinks hero, was solemnly cremated. The ceremony served as a catharsis for pent-up high spirits, and “to present symbolically the salvation of the trees by the club…”[18] The Cremation of Care was separated from the Grove Play in 1913 and moved to the first night to become “an exorcising of the Demon to ensure the success of the ensuing two weeks.”[19] The Grove Play was moved to the last weekend of the encampment.[20]

    The ceremony takes place in front of the Owl Shrine, a 40-foot (12 m) hollow owl statue made of concrete over steel supports. The moss- and lichen-covered statue simulates a natural rock formation, yet holds electrical and audio equipment within it. For many years, a recording of the voice of club member Walter Cronkite was used as the voice of The Owl during the ceremony.[1] Music and pyrotechnics accompany the ritual for dramatic effect. Wiki


  6. Don Hawkins said on February 10th, 2011 at 4:25am #

    The Bohemian club and the spot on the dot they picked talk about can’t see the forest for the tree’s.

    Explanation: Used when expressing that a person is focusing too much on specific problems and is missing the point.

    I wonder what the talk will be for the next party of the frat boy’s squared in old twenty eleven? Very sure they don’t want to see the forest as if they did with known knowledge a little thing called business as usual a few minor adjustment’s and of course would have to use reason, know knowledge not illusion and imagination and yes it appears they have imagination as best practiced from the golf course. With known knowledge this does present a bit of a conundrum pursuing their institutional role: maximizing short-term profit and putting aside externalities or oh why kid ourselves as cap and trade the last joke on the human race can’t even do that so to make a real try from the wise old Owl’s or buzzards not going to happen. To miss the point is the point and not looking real good for the home team all life on Earth such a vision. I wonder if they will have any new members at the secure location and party like there’s no tomorrow. What a vision.

  7. mary said on February 10th, 2011 at 4:33am #

    Hooray for Chavez!

    He is even helping to liberate the Cubans from the US embargo by giving them internet access.
    Cuba welcomes new internet cable link with Venezuela
    The cable is expected to be operational in July

    Cuba has welcomed the arrival of an undersea fibre-optic cable linking it to Venezuela as a blow to the US economic embargo.

    The cable will transform communications in Cuba, which has among the slowest internet speeds in the world.

    The new connection will make download speeds 3,000 times faster – at least for the small minority of Cubans who have internet access.

    It should also make international phone calls much cheaper.

    The 1,600km (1,000 mile) cable from Venezuela was financed by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) – a left-wing regional grouping founded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    Cuban Information and Communications Minister Medardo Diaz said it “reinforced Cuba’s sovereignty” and “opened a breach” in the US economic blockade.

    The cable would “be at the service of our people, as a tool to reinforce its development, integration and sovereignty” when it became operational in July, he added.

    Until now, Cuba has relied on internet and international telephone connections via satellite, which is expensive and slow.



  8. Don Hawkins said on February 11th, 2011 at 4:20am #

    Well it’s tomorrow and I wonder what the little tyrant’s have in store for us today. Yesterday that I think they call history an Egyptian after the little tyrant’s speech said he doesn’t have a brain. Yes some very clear thinking there and let me add no brain while living in a parallel Universe. The media here in the States did talk about the new President in Egypt or is that still the Vice President and kind of forgot to mention that he is a killer and very sure a psychopath. Glenn Beck yesterday went with the fair and balanced approach you know the Muslim Brotherhood and all the evil’s that go with that group and he was yelling at the camera yesterday just maybe he has watched one to many clip’s of Adolf Hitler. Speaking of group’s this Bohemian club and the members well so far these wise Owl’s it sure look’s like have decided it’s just better to go ahead and destroy the Earth’s ability to sustain life it’s just better that way while they in Northern California on a little piece of land with God only know’s how many guard’s and TV cameras so as to keep out people who might see them set a fire in front of a giant Owl and with known knowledge is 100% looney tunes. These frat boy’s squared do have there way’s. How about those names like the Owl’s Nest I guess with the help of the Hideaway and Lost Angle’s should do the trick. Maybe we will hear about the one World Government again today and or that parallel Universe in the land of Oz and all the little tyrant’s I mean Wizard’s. Ok then maybe turn on CNBC this morning and see how to make money on the oil trade as the show must go on while pursuing their institutional role: maximizing short-term profit and putting aside externalities and again let me add 100% looney tunes. Yep in a mad world only the mad are sane but we can’t watch them, oh yes we can. Viva Chavez I know to much power in a few hands is a tad bit corruptible yes it sure is on the third planet from the Sun.