As Arturo Quiran, resident of a poor folks' housing complex, told me, "Ten, fifteen years ago... there was a lot of oil money here in Venezuela but we didn't see it." Notably, Quiran doesn't particularly agree with Chavez' politics. But, he thought Americans should understand that under Chavez' Administration, there's a doctor's office in his building with "free operations, x-rays, medicines. Education also. People who never knew how to read and write now know how to sign their own papers."
Not everyone is pleased. As one TV news anchor, violently anti-Chavez, told me in derisive tones, "Chavez gives them (the poor) bricks and bread!" - how dare he! - so, they vote for him.
Big Oil has better ideas for Venezuela, best expressed in several Wall Street Journal articles attacking Chavez for spending his nation's oil wealth on "social programs" rather than on more drilling platforms to better fill the SUVs of Texas.
Chavez has committed other crimes in Washington's eyes. Not only has this uppity brown man spent Venezuela's oil wealth in Venezuela, he withdrew $20 billion from the US Federal Reserve. Weirdly, Venezuela's previous leaders, though the nation was dirt poor, lent billions to the US Treasury on crap terms. Chavez has said, Basta! to this game, and has called for keeping South America's capital in... South America! Oh, no!
Oh, and did I mention that Chavez told Exxon it had to pay more than a 1% royalty to his nation on the heavy crude the company extracted?
Like the rest of us, Palast doesn't agree with everything Chavez does, but he supports the right of the Venezuelan people to make their own decisions. He objects to the lies and misinformation - for instance he finds Chavez to be wildly popular, unlike the portrayal in the international media.
It's worth noting that Chavez' personal popularity doesn't extend to all his plans for "Bolivarian" socialism. And that killed his referendum at the ballot box. I guess Chavez should have asked Jeb bush how to count votes in a democracy.
So there you have it. Some guy who thinks he can take Venezuela's oil and oil money and just give it away to Venezuelans. And these same Venezuelans have the temerity to demand the right to pick the president of their choice! What is the world coming to?
In Orwellian Bush-speak and Times-talk, Chavez' referendum was portrayed before the vote as a trick, Saddam goes Latin. Maybe their real fear is that Chavez has brought a bit of economic justice through the ballot box, a trend that could spread northward. Think about it: Chavez is funding full health care for all Venezuelans. What if that happened here?
Read the Rest over at gregpalast.com
Also check out the coverage over at Paulitics: details about the proposed reforms and on media coverage