|HUGO CHAVEZ’S NEW ERA OF SOCIALISM
POSES NO THREAT
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov)
Hugo Chavez and Cuba, which is worried about Fidel’s illness and its own
future, are celebrating victory in Venezuela’s presidential election.
It was a predictable win, as pre-election polls showed Chavez’s opponent
lagging behind him by a wide margin. However, that did not stop some
people in Caracas and especially Havana from worrying over the outcome.
Cuba’s economic welfare depends on Venezuelan oil and money, and its
political future hinges on Chavez, one of the region’s new radical
Chavez, an inspiring speaker and political hooligan (remember his speech
at the UN in which he called President Bush “the devil”), has
convinced everyone that he is the successor to Simon Bolivar and Fidel
Castro on the continent (General Simon Bolivar organized and led military
forces in the battle to win independence for the northern part of South
America from Spanish rule in the early 19th century).
Immediately after his landslide victory, Chavez announced the beginning of
a new socialist era in Venezuela. Having won the support of more than 60%
of the people, he has a right to do so.
Nevertheless, I would urge caution. Wise people say you can believe only
half of what politicians say. In my opinion, 10% is more like it in Latin
America. Chavez may step up his anti-American rhetoric while continuing
and possibly even diversifying his social policies. He may continue to
support Cuba and other “left-wing” countries on the continent. But I
don’t think he will radically overhaul the economy or set up a
Soviet-style state planning committee.
His idol, Fidel Castro, who once said that the Americans had made him a
communist, started drifting from socialism towards Bolivar’s ideas after
the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Bolivar fought for genuine
sovereignty and against poverty. Chavez has most likely described this as
socialism simply because he has not yet invented a new Venezuelan term for
his policy and wants to pull Uncle Sam’s beard. Chavez has read enough
books to know that building socialism requires more than just oil; the
Soviet Union tried to do so and failed.
Some have accused Chavez of addressing the people on the day before the
election, although he had a sore throat from all his campaigning and could
only croak something almost unintelligible. His red tie and the
achievements of his first term, however, spoke volumes. He established
tight control over the state-owned petroleum company, Petroleos de
Venezuela (PDVSA), using bumper oil profits to build hospitals and
schools, launch agrarian reform, fight illiteracy, and address other
Caracas has enough doctors and teachers, but the provinces had to do
without them until Chavez came to power. He is paying Cuban professionals
a great deal of money to teach and give medical treatment to the
This is why Chavez has been reelected, again getting more than 60% of the
vote. The people also like the anti-American speeches delivered by their
loudly dressed president, who is pragmatically playing on trade disputes
between the United States and the European Union and developing ties with
China, India, Canada, Russia and Iran.
They say Hugo’s mother wanted him to become a priest. Instead, the boy
went from a military career to revolution, and eventually became a
legitimately elected president. In other words, like many before him, he
preferred building the City of God here on Earth.
Will he succeed? That I don’t know. But one thing’s for sure: he did
not rig the elections.