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  Global Views
Letters from Tokyo
Venezuela — Chavez the Enigma, a Great or Flawed Leader?
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

Venezuela was well known for her oil industry but her political leaders were not very famous and Venezuela was certainly in the shadow and pocket of America. Of course her economy will remain in the shadow of America, however, the current leader is putting Venezuela on the map because he desires to see genuine social reforms. Yet is President Chavez a new dynamic leader who is going to usher in a new era in Venezuela or is he nothing more than a paper tiger?

Before focusing on President Chavez it is important to mention that wealth generated by the oil industry and other natural resources, had not trickled down to the people of Venezuela. On the contrary, poverty and alienation was a daily reality for the overwhelming majority of people. After all, the ruling elite preserved their power base via corruption because they controlled the resources of this nation. Also, past leaders of Venezuela were often too compliant towards America and this policy was not welcomed by many ordinary people. Therefore, many people of this nation were "crying out" for a fresh start and for a leader who would listen to them and who would usher in a new period.

So President Chavez, before he was elected, espoused greater equality and a more just society based on exploiting the natural resources of Venezuela in order to help the masses. Therefore, he reached out to the silent majority who had been crushed time after time. So clearly he was astute from the start because he could feel a change within the political arena of South America. This was based on the re-awakening of socialism and the need to create a just society.

Once President Chavez was elected he faced many challenges to his power base and the United States was also against him. Given this, he set out to implement many radical policies in order to strengthen himself and to lay the foundation for a fairer society. These radical policies, for example greater land distribution and health care facilities, put him at odds with the ruling elite and they tried to fight back. Yet President Chavez was "no mouse" and he hit back at this crony elite.

His policies of greater equality and to create an independent Venezuela are welcomed by many, and people on the margins have a lot of faith in him because in the past they were often neglected. Yet often it appears that a lot of his policies are also based on "hot air" and the inequality gap in Venezuela remains very high despite his lofty ideals. But obviously no political leader could transform a nation quickly and especially when the ruling elite is baying for your blood. So Chavez still needs more time in order to implement many more radical policies before you can fully judge him. Yet overall he does appear to be trying to alter Venezuela for the best and this in itself is positive when you consider past leaders.

However, the one major downside of President Chavez applies to his anti-American statements because often they are not needed and sometimes he goes well over the top. This weakness means that Venezuela and America have negative images of each other. Also, Chavez is always strengthening ties with nations like Belarus or Iran, therefore, he is reaching out to non-democratic and anti-American nation states. So while Chavez is free to reach out to non-democratic nations, after all, America does the same, he should only implement this policy if it is in the interest of Venezuela. Yet it appears that often it is also aimed at America, and he must not get involved in a tit-for-tat dispute with America. Instead he must use his energy to help the people of Venezuela and to boost South America on the whole via dynamic policies.

Not all of his ideas are negative in the field of global affairs because he certainly desires to create a prosperous South America. Chavez also believes in standing up to the ruling elites and major powers who just desire to exploit other nations. Therefore, he supports important structures to challenge poverty and to help the commercial side of this continent. This can clearly be seen by his support of a South American bank. Also, he strives to unify other nations in the region with regards to a shared and common interest and many people do support him.

Therefore, is President Chavez a great leader who is building up a nation based on sound economic principles and where greater equality develops? Or does his policies add up to little apart from empty words because this is what senior Republicans claim in America?

In truth it is not easy to answer because he is an enigma and sometimes you can understand him but other times he appears to just like the limelight. Therefore, to answer the question fairly is difficult and much depends on your political motives. However, it is clear that he does desire to create a more just society and he does seem to care about the alienated masses. Also, genuine reforms have been implemented but he must continue to implement more reforms in order to fully transform society in Venezuela. Given this, more time is needed before you can really judge how effective Chavez really is. Yet on the brightside, it is clear that Venezuela is now on the world map and many people are now engaged in politics because of him.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA
http://journals.aol.com/leejaywalker/uk/



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute.

 

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