, Newburyport, MA

March 20, 2013

Who was Hugo Chavez? Here's who

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela, was certainly not perfect and was like most of us a complex human being, capable of great things and not-so-great things. Your editorial (March 13) shows a very small, limited, narrow view.

He rose from poverty and had a mixed ancestry of indigenous, African and Spanish, and to quote a published article “despised a power structure dominated by European elites” and maintained a visceral connection to the poor and downtrodden. To those addicted to convention and keeping the power and the money in the hands of the powerful and the rich and stacking the decks in those directions (sound familiar, fellow Americans?), they will of course have issues with him and his methods.

I believe he endeavored to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Many of us will remember his courageous appearance at the United Nations in 2006 saying “the hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species” — can anyone in their right mind and respectful of science argue with this?

And of course accurately (in my view) calling former President George W. Bush (who had just gotten up with the beloved Colin Powell — remember all the maps and drawings, and so many “bought it” — and others trying to convince the world of the presence of all those weapons of mass destruction and our need to wage war on Iraq) “the devil.”

How many deaths were Bush and his decisions directly responsible for? All of us can do the numbers on “Americans” (approximately 5,000), but how many others, and why do those lives seem to matter less? Wasn’t Chavez more patriotic than any of us, willing to stand up to an imperialistic American despot, having the courage and wisdom to tell it like it is? Did any other leaders here or abroad show similar vision and conviction?

When Joe Kennedy II of Citizens Energy tried to get oil companies to help needy families here in the U.S. with heating oil, did any of our “American” companies help? Nope, the only company that did was Venezuelan-owned Citgo. Over the last eight years, 200 million gallons have been donated, over 2 million people have been helped (100,000 families in 25 states this year alone).

Chavez was instrumental in this, showing a compassion toward the people of the U.S. while still having problems with our government’s practices, especially the Bush administration, which had supported an attempted coup of President Chavez in 2002. Was he doing this for PR purposes? Perhaps, but at least he did it!

Rama Valianti