The Real Hugo Chavez

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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When Chavez speaks, we listen. Source: Pedro Rey/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Pedro Rey/AFP/Getty Images

Hugo Chavez is the president of Venezuela... and a major quote-machine. He's controversial and fascinating, and I always cherish the opportunity to pull tape on him. Last week, we were working on the promo for this show, and wanted to pull the famous quote from his speech at the UN in 2006 where he referenced President Bush, who had been there the day before — "The devil came here yesterday,and it smells of sulfur still today." Zing! Unfortunately, we didn't have his actual voice, just the female translator's, so it didn't work for us. I thought maybe we'd use it at the top of the show today, thinking surely that's the best tape... I should've had more faith. Just last week, he lobbed this gem at Exxon-Mobil, which is threatening to freeze his country's assets as part of a lawsuit, "If you end up freezing and it harms us, we are going to harm you. Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger." Mr. Danger?! Now that's good tape. So who's the man behind the fiery rhetoric? That's what we hope to reveal today. Leave your questions about the man below.

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Most Americans couldn't tell you the names of other Latin American leaders but Hugo Chavez is in the news up here all of the time. Do you think the fact that he is sitting on top of some of the biggest oil resreves in the world has something to do with that?

Sent by Honor Quain | 2:15 PM | 2-18-2008

Free and fair elections? Interesting comment. As a long-time (37 year) resident of Caracas and a US citizen, I would argue that there is considerable bias inherent in elections when the government controls all the branches of the government. It is very true that he was elected to bring about needed change in a system that did not meet the needs of its citizens however, his government is riddled with corruption and much of the money as been misused in programs that are not sustainable. Industries have been gutted and there is little legal protections to encourage investment. Your interviewer needs to revisit the country. It sounds as if he has seen only a view of Venezuela highly colored by the governments propagada.

Sent by Joan Schofield | 2:23 PM | 2-18-2008

What is the official US position on Chavez? Do you feel that the US position is right or should it change,

Sent by Bill from Denver | 2:23 PM | 2-18-2008

We demonize Hugo Chavez because he provides a clear example of how a democratic government can serve the needs of all people, rather than just the rich. It is inconvenient for the so-called conservatives to acknowledge such an example, as it flies in the face of what they stand for.

Sent by Don | 2:25 PM | 2-18-2008

I am Felix Valanzasca from Argentina in South Minneapolis. I wanted to know what does your guest think about the impact that Chavez is going to have on Mercosur and a potential free trade agreement in the Americas. Also, I wanted to point out that a big part of the oil money of Venezuela is being used to buy influence in other countries in the region like Argentina and Bolivia.

Sent by Felix Valanzasca | 2:28 PM | 2-18-2008

The program was shamefully apologistic toward the demagogue Hugo Chavez. His original emergence was the result of a failed military coup. His announced public plan is to turn Venezuela into a socialist state with himself as a "president for life". The problems with Colombia emerged as he took the liberty of contacting Colombia's military commands directly, undermining the legal and legitimate government.
He has become a spokesperson for legitimizing the FARC,created a new economic elite know as Bolivarian bourgeois and has caused tremendous shortages and economic chaos.

It is sad to see NPR become a shil for demagogues and the left. At least own up to it. Jorge

Sent by Jorge | 2:30 PM | 2-18-2008

I believe your guest in not well informed. Mr Chavez has done one positive thing:
Make the middle-upper class realize for the first time how wrong they were by ignoring the lower class in all aspects of life. BUT:
- Chavez' government is the most corrupted in the history of the country
- Chavez spends all oil money on his agenda by giving the money to other countries, not to the people
- Chavez "free" education is doctrinizing
- Chavez's cuban physicians are actually nurses. This I know by fact, as my cousing, a cardiologist discovered this during an actual operation. The cuban "MD" confessed during the operation

Sent by alberto | 2:30 PM | 2-18-2008

The criticism of Chavez from the US media and government is that he is destroying Venezuelan democracy. Yet, Chavez was elected in a democratic election, which the US then tried to overthrow in a coup. That action was one of many undemocratic actions taken by the US government and supported by our media. In Guatamala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, etc. just to name some, have all seen their democratic elected governments over thrown directly or in-directly by the US. This suggests to me that the US government and media have little respect for democracy through the world.

Sent by William Bianchi | 2:31 PM | 2-18-2008

Hello,

On President's Day I think it is so telling that NPR decides to cover a Communist leader vs. talk about the great leader that we have in George W. Bush.

Listen during FDR's time we lost the right to own Gold. Now in this internet age your station makes such a big to do over monitoring over seas communications.

Hugo Chavez represents everything that is wrong with communism. Our country is suppose to be a Capitalist Society but since FDR we have been on a race to Socialism.

The Venezuelan's did not figure out how to extract oil from the ground in Venezuela. American engineer's did. Just like we built the Panama Canal.

Obama & Clinton want to expand this race to socialism by making you and me pay for every illegal immigrant's health care.

George Washington & Abraham Lincoln must be turning in their graves to know that our media focus is on talking about the wonders of socialism and communism on this President's Day.

Please go back and read George Washington by Joseph Ellis, 1776 & the Federalist Papers and let me know how this fits in with NPR's views of America's future.

Sent by Wade Tunnell | 2:34 PM | 2-18-2008

Free public speech, what happened to Radio Caracas, the oldest TV network?. What is happening to Globovision? Has he gone to the supermarket in Venezuela? The oil of Venezuela has been used for Nicaragua, Cuba, Argentina, or to create a better image of Chavez in the States, not to eliminate the poverty or the ranchos of Venezuela

Sent by Dolores A Torres | 2:37 PM | 2-18-2008

I am totally shocked at the "interviews" on the radio about Chavez. He's "humanistic"? He reads poems? Almost 30 minutes and the word "socialist" isn't spoken once? A caller asks about food shortages and the reply is "everyone has tried price controls in Venezuela but we only demonize Chavez"?? How about FOOD SHORTAGES? Run away inflation? Stolen billions in foreign investments by oil companies (nationalized)?

It is shameful and outrageous that you are discussing him "separate" from the outcomes and implications of his ACTIONS as leader of the country. How can you possibly have a credible guest who says he "is concerned with the poor" when he has HURT the poor the most by making bread and milk IMPOSSIBLE to buy? I actually stopped listening to the so-called "real Chavez" broadcast because it's so whitewashed and sanitized that I don't think his own propaganda machine could have done a better job deifying the devil.

Sent by Matthew Ferrara | 2:37 PM | 2-18-2008

Dear Neal,
This is the first time I've listened to your show and felt that you haven't adequately researched the topic.
The story of Hugo Chavez can only be truly understood after one develops an understanding of US influence and history in Central and South America.

In his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins describes how as a highly paid professional, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then take over the economies of these countries and/or enslave them in debt. These contracts were pushed by US national organizations. The same organizations that the central american countries were required to use in fulfillment of the contracts. Hugo Chavez was made the same offer as many of the former leaders in Central America. He did not go along with the offer because he saw that it would have enslaved his country. As John Perkins writes:

Perkins writes, "The book was to be dedicated to the presidents of two countries, men who had been his clients whom I respected and thought of as kindred spirits Jaime Rold's, president of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama. Both had just died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government, and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We Economic Hit Men failed to bring Rold's and Torrijos around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in.
Hugo Chavez is painted to be crazy, maniacle, etc etc... but really it seems to me that he is only acting in the best interest of his country.
sincerely, John Levenberg

Sent by John Levenberg | 2:38 PM | 2-18-2008

As a linguist, I see Chavez engage in rhetoric that is inflammatory and disrespectful, to say the least. Reactions from other word leaders has been consistently dismissive and annoyed. The language that he uses, arguably more damaging than beneficial, must be addressed as it puts into question his ability to engage in international political dialogue and does not seem to represent the attitude and identity of the Venezuelan people.

Sent by AnaMaria Bambaren-Call | 2:40 PM | 2-18-2008

This program is being taken for a ride on the Chavez propaganda machine.
There seems to be no balance on the discussion. No discussion on how the particular style of community organization and education "reform" are designed to lead to less democracy in the future.
Unless, that is, if you consider China and Cuba democracies. If you do consider these countries democracies, then we will have to agree to disagree.

Sent by Marcio | 2:41 PM | 2-18-2008

While Chavez is too close to a dictatorship - I would like to know more about the role of the U.S. in the attempted overthrow of Chavez.

Also, what do people think about the reaction generated by Spain's Juan Carlos remark to Chavez 'Why don't you just shut up?'

Sent by Storm Russell | 2:46 PM | 2-18-2008

I'd like to hear Bart Jones discuss the coup that temporarily removed Chavez from power. There have been reports about support from the Bush administration for opposition groups in Venezuela including support for those who tried to remove him from power forcefully.

Sent by Andy Klemer | 2:46 PM | 2-18-2008

I thought it was interesting that the author would state that Hugo Chavez was a democratically elected president. I'm sure that he thinks that will help sell his books, by supporting his theme. However, let's not forget the Jimmy Carter election verification scandal around Chavez's election. Carter verified the election saying that everything was in place and that no fraud occurred (even though Chavez was down in the polls by 40% prior to the election). If I recall correctly, Chavez won by 40%, ironic. Also, later Jimmy Carter admitted that he certified the election because he was afraid that there would be riots if he didn't. He didn't want anyone hurt. To call the election democratic is purely fiction.

Sent by John | 2:51 PM | 2-18-2008

Check out this link

http://venered.blogspot.com/2008/02/nprs-live-radio-show-on-hugo-chvez.html

Sent by Venered | 3:04 PM | 2-18-2008

I am from Venezuela, and I know what is happening in my country. I am in USA and all my family is in Venezuela. I was middle class, and now, no more. When I talk to my family over the phone two times a week; I feel their stress about the situation that they are living for the past five years. Venezuela is worse than before. The crime is higher. When Chavez talks, he invites violence Chavez said ???Let???s fight with gun and with fist to all against us???. It is scary to listening Hugo Chavez. Venezuelan against Chavez do not want violence, we want peace. I do not want to hear that my mother is waiting in line for one hour to buy milk or oil. Venezuela used to be peaceful and happier. Chavez deserves to be in jail.

Sent by Yamilet | 3:10 PM | 2-18-2008

I was very disappointed in getting such a one sided view of Hugo Chavez from NPR. I would have expected an opposing viewpoint represented by at least one guest. This diminishes your program's credibility. It is not responsible journalism.

Sent by Vic | 3:18 PM | 2-18-2008

Just tuned in and heard a Chavez supporter over the phone extol the wonders of the regime; sounds quite convincing. As a dual citizenship Venezuelan ??? US individual I feel compelled to warn you about one fundamental premise that must be clearly explained: You cannot distinguish between truths and lies; this is a common trait in people with our Latin culture that Americans simply cannot assimilate. Particularly government supporters will lie convincingly to make their point in a way that will fool any individual. Our system rewards those who get away with it and punishes those who don???t; if you are not smart, then you are a fool and it has absolutely nothing with right and wrong. Lying is part of everyday business.

At this point I suggest you closely watch actions taken by the government and make up your mind. The constitutional project recently defeated by popular vote despite the huge bias shown in the process is concrete proof of what the real values of this regime are. A discussion in Radio over such document will shed more light than any live interview. Read some of the articles in this constitutional reform project and then ask for comments on the specific text; you will find it amusing and educational. The contents of this document will make the most radical left leaning agenda in the US look conservative by comparison. How can a regime that calls itself democratic and open minded try to force a one party system on us? How can a president who calls himself open to opposing views concentrate so much power and be so repressive?

Don???t let the Chavez regime rhetoric fool you; watch his actions, not his words.

Sincerely,

J.T. Blohm

Sent by Jorge T. Blohm | 3:19 PM | 2-18-2008

This program was the first I've heard on any U.S. media (except for Democracy Now)that interviewed people who could represent anywhere near an honest appraisal of the Chavez government. Even so, Neal couldn't resist letting his own mistaken take show.

I'm just returned from Venezuela, and as one of the call-in people expressed, I was deeply moved by the huge number of projects initiated by people all over the country, creating co-ps to support a diverse economy, the spread of community radio and television to offer alternatives news and views to privately owned, anti-revolution media like RCTV and Globovision. These are a people actively organizing and moving THEIR non-violent revolution forward.

None of the guests mentioned the role of ALBA, which is the south american replacement of NAFTA. The organization includes Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and perhaps Paraguay. Chavez has traded oil for pregnant cows,among other things. Their newly created bank will serve south america and continue to assist these countries to free themselves for the IMF and NAFTA, to begin to put resources truly into the hands of their people.

We all deserve to learn more about the truly incredible activities taking place in south america. When we don't, we know that the media is mouthing garbage instead of doing truly independent research.

Thanks so much for today's show.

Sent by Laurie Tanenbaum | 3:24 PM | 2-18-2008

Thank you to NPR and its guests for setting the record straight about Hugo Chavez and his government. While the Chavez government certainly demonstrates some strong-armed characteristics, these pale in comparison with the human rights abuses demonstrated by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, Turkey, China, Colombia and dozens of other nations that the U.S. does business with and honors as allies.

Not only is it essential to clarify, as was done on the NPR program, that the Chavez government has been democratically elected in numerous elections that were praised by international observers and that the RCTV incident involved not renewing the liscense of a media outlet that participated in the attempted assasination of Chavez, but it is also important to observe the context in which Chavez has come to power. Chavez' critics lambast him for democratic technicalities that, given the Constitutional breaches we have seen by the Bush Administration, are not so strictly adhered to by our own government. At the same time, these critics ignore that Chavez is widely popular domestically and hated abroad because he is standing up to foreign corporations that practice human rights abuses in other developing nations. The reality is that business-friendly, so-called democratic governments in Colombia, Haiti, India, Honduras, Indonesia and countless others, turn a blind eye to slave-like working conditions and environmental degradation practiced by foreign corporations on their own soil. Furthermore, these governments provide corporate protection with right-wing paramilitary groups that intimidate, rape and murder labor activists or anybody else who criticizes foreign corporate abuse of power. These governments are rarely criticized for their human rights abuses by the U.S. government or mainstream media.

While the Chavez government may not offer a model democracy and may have certain glaring shortcomings, it has has protected its people against abhorent conditions that are widespread throughout the rest of the developing world. The average Venezuelan peasant suffers very little by not watching RCTV or having Exxon lose some of its assetts during a record profit year. On the other hand, each and every one of them benefits from the absence of government and corporate supported miliary death squads. Therefore, Chavez' Venezuela, while far from perfect, arguably offers a better option than the system available to most people in the developing world and certainly does not deserve the inflamed rhetoric that is directed its way by the international community. It is clear to me and others that the inflamed rhetoric dished-out by the U.S. and others is not in response to any manner of democratic shortcoming but because Venezuela is interfering with the profit machine of big-oil and its related interests.

Sent by Paul Jeden | 3:33 PM | 2-18-2008

Venezuela is one of many country around the world (Europe)that have electronics machines that are not connected to any computer just to the wall, besides every voter have a receipt that deposit in the box. After the election there is a voting counting of more than 50% to make sure that there will be any doubt about the election. That is why Mr. Carter verified that everything was in place.
Nevertheless I assume Chavez government has to work hard to assure to the world community that everything was clean.
We have to remember the last election on December 02, 2007 where the Chavez government lost the sweeping reform.

Sent by Carlos Henriquez | 4:03 PM | 2-18-2008

Neal Conan's attempts to demonize Chavez are vaguely amusing, or they would be if they weren't so dangerous. Luckily they are also transparent, and Conan's attempts to paint Chavez as a tin-pot dictator have been politely and gently, but firmly refuted by his guests.

I cite but one example from the litany that one could choose from over the first half of the show. Conan attempts to raise the "Axis of Evil" specter, and tar Chavez with it, when he claims that Chavez has "found allies in Iran, Syria, and [horrors!] Cuba." The only Latin American country that Conan mentions as being opposed to Chavez is the US-sponsored, right-wing government of Colombia, but ignores his other Latin American allies such as Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

We have seen this kind of distortion before, in the demonization of such figures as Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala in the 1950s and Salvador Allende of Chile in the 1970s. And we have seen the results of this demonization and distortion, which is the danger I mentioned in the first paragraph, in decades of military rule, repression, oligarchy, torture, disappearance and death for uncounted numbers of Guatemalans and Chileans. Venezuela does not need a repeat performance.

Sent by Jim from Alaska | 4:19 PM | 2-18-2008

I was shocked to listen to your program today and your so called 'experts'. It is extremely sad how uninformed some of you are. Obviously, you haven't had a chance to live in Venezuela on a day to day basis. The government abuse and the corruption is way beyond anything you have ever seen. You have certainly lost a NPR supporter. Shame on you WLRN. Read some of the above comments and do your homework. You live in a fantasy world.

Sent by JP | 4:21 PM | 2-18-2008

As I daily listener of Talk of the Nation I was ashamed of how Chavez was described as a humanist intellectual that cares for his people. His is the best PR campain of the last years. It is true he won his first and only fair election with 30 % of the vote promising to get rid of corruption, inequality, poverty. Has he walked the talk? He has had at his disposal billions of dollars and today the country is poorer than ever. More than half of the companies have closed so there is no employment. The oil production on which the country depends is going down. Schools, hospitals, roads and the general infrastructure are destroyed. People are blackmailed all the time to obtain services. Food shortages are constant. Dengue, malaria, measles are endemic. Venezuela has after his 9 years in power one of the highest murder rates of the world . The dollar exchange rate has gone from 500 Bs per dollar to 5,000 .
So you say this is progress? There is not one thing that is happenning in Venezuela that you would accept here in the USA but it seems there is a different standard for the venezuelan locals and they have to take anything because, as you say, Chavez "cares for the poor"
He is no socialist or communist; he has the checkbook and the guns.
PS By the way. He was accepted and graduated form the Military Academy because their baseball team neded a left pitcher. He was a poor student who failed the higher courses. But you state he is an intellectual. Funny, isn't it?

Sent by Mercedes | 4:22 PM | 2-18-2008

I am a Venezuelan, I have a lot of respect for you program, but today's comments on Mr. Chavez made my stomach sick. I wish you had invited a Venezuelan who has to live everyday with Mr. Chavez???s politics, or any or the thousands of Venezuelans who have fleet the country because is almost impossible to live in freedom in our beautiful Venezuela.
This is the first time I've listened to your show and felt in completed disagreement at the point that I felt insulted by your guest careless of presenting a realistic profile of the president of few, re-elected by few under very suspicious voting machines and ignoring the day to day suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Sent by Maria Isabel Sanchez | 5:51 PM | 2-18-2008

Good show!There is such a dichotomy between what some U.S. government administrations advocate and what U.S. citizens privately advocate.For example, we citizens worry about whether or not citizens of other countries are being exploited.?? We want "fair" coffee, "fair" grapes, "fair" everything.But our government often refuses to support those leaders who work actively to PROTECT their nations' workers and to benefit the MAJORITY of their citizens.?? Instead, our government puts a premium on protection of property rights and on protection of ideological purity.?? (Good heavens,?? nation X appears to have socialistic tendencies -- let's try to get a new regime in there!)
I like property rights as much as anyone, but human rights will forever take precedence. And aren't participatory democracies anywhere in the world supposed to keep us safer in the war against terror?
Let's see what Chavez and a new U.S. administration will be able to do --both for Venezuelans and U.S. citizens.

Sent by Lee | 6:03 PM | 2-18-2008

I was shocked when Bart Jones said that Venezuela is a democracy because elections have been fair under Chavez's rule. It shows the one-sided view of people who only see what they want to see. Bart Jones is dismissing the audit results from previous referendums done by a group of Harvard Professors showing that the results were "statistically" impossible. Most recently, in the referendum lost by Chavez, there are serious inconsistencies between the first and second bulletin by the Electoral Body. Furthermore, there has not been a final bulletin summarizing the results per electorate center as required by the law. Exit polls showed that Chavez probably lost by more than 6% points and that the results were probably manipulated to make it look like a "photo finish." Anybody who truly knows a bit about wwhat is going on in Venezuela knows that Chavez would have never accepted losing by only half a percentage point. Particularly when the result blocked him from staying in power indefinitely. I'd like to hear Bart Jones' comments if, as everybody in Venezuela expects, he manipulates the constitution and the courts to allow him to stay in power either through another referendum (which is unconstitutional) or through a "creative" interpretation of the laww. It is also shocking to hear from Bart Jones that there is freedom of expression in Venezuela in view of the closing of the oldest TV station (which by the way was expropiated of all its infrastructure and have not been paid a dime in return) and the recent moves to close the last TV station that still opposes the government. In a country in which the Supreme Court Justice says that Law and Politics cannot be separated, in which the head of the Electoral body become vice-president, in which the Congress is 100% controlled by the ruling party, and in which judges are appointed based on party affiliation, it is very difficult to see the kind of "democracy" that Bart Jones talks about. I'd love to talk to Bart Jones and discuss these issues with him to uncover his true agenda for this biography. I'd certainly had loved to see him questioned about these issues. It is amazing how little knowledge some journalists have about issues in Latin America and make comments without truly knowing the history of the region.

Sent by Carlos Torelli, PhD | 9:13 PM | 2-18-2008

Thanks to NPR for presenting a point of view different from the official version that shows up in the corporate media.

When Venezuela was run by two corrupt parties that took turns at governing--both now basically disappeared since the voters have had a real option--no one in the US complained about the government. When the government did nothing about the shocking 60% poverty rate in a country with major oil reserves, while the privileged lived lives of luxury, no one expressed concern about the poor. As long as PDVSA's computers were run by US businesses and the oil could be called "our reserves," as in fact it was; as long as the Pentagon had permanent offices inside the Venezuelan department of defense, there was no problem.

But when the poor, and the black and Indian and mestizo, were given the chance to vote for change, and took it, when the results of democracy were not to the liking of the privileged class and the US corporations, the US cooperated in staging a coup d'etat led by big business and military supporters, who planned to rule by decree indefinitely. That, too, was OK here, all in the name of democracy.

Chavez wants to defend Venezuela's strategic resources. What's wrong with that? It was not long ago that Congress voided a proposed Chinese purchase of an oil company in California, and a contract for a Middle Eastern company to manage ports in the US. Why should Venezuela not use its oil for itself first? Why should it remain, like most of Latin America, a permanent underdeveloped appendage of the US?

You can bet that the many self-righteous comments posted here come mainly from two kinds of writers: those associated with the now-displaced former rulers of Venezuela, and those who believe that the US has a superior right to the natural resources of other countries.

NPR, please don't join the propaganda bandwagon of so many other media.

Sent by LatAm | 9:26 PM | 2-18-2008

Having lived in Venezuelan barrios from 1983-1987, I understand the atraction of the 'cacique' -- the chief or strong man that is powerful throughout Venezuelan history. I saw the paralysis of the then key political parties and I have friends I respect who are 'chavistas'. Nevertheless, I am sus pect of his demagogery and court packing and defection of some of his previoously stalwart supporters. I don't think this style of government has yet truly spread political power or delivered on its promises to the poor in most repects. Yet no one can deny that the US supported coup and rhetoric shows that American oil intersts and other concerns undermine any role for US as an honest broker -- the sad histoiry of the US with all of Latin America.

Sent by Dave Pasinski | 11:23 PM | 2-18-2008

shame on you npr, Talk of the Nation, and Neal Conan and related producers for this biased "coverage." I am surprised and dismayed at Talk of the Nation for presenting a one-sided, unbalanced perspective on this critical issue. Author Bart Jones' Chavez biography has a clear profit agenda while it masquerades as meaningful literature. His "research" is without rigor, it is unbalanced, and flawed. Next time, npr, do your homework so assumptions and assertions like Bart Jones' can be appropriately challenged and presented more fairly as a journalistic organization ought to. I think this discussion deserves quick followup with scholars who can more intelligently discuss the pertinent issues.

Sent by Greg Schano | 2:21 AM | 2-19-2008

He is definately a fasinating figure. It is so important that we as Americans have free speech and I look forward to hearing more on Chavez.

Sent by Solano | 11:18 AM | 2-19-2008

(...not sure if I sent my comment to the right place when I wrote previously, so bear with me if I am being repetitive.)
I was hoping to learn something from the show and see both sides of the man being presented. But your guests only seem to have been pro-Chavez, and you asked no probing questions regarding the man the entire show. I agree with some other comments posted: why was Spanish King Juan Carlos' reaction to Chavez at the Panamerican conference ignored? (This one was ALL OVER You Tube!) What about Chavez's relationship with Cuba? What about the role he has played in the Colombians' interactions with the FARC? What about the new Bolivarian Alternative Bank being set up? What about the coups-- both-- one by Chavez, and the other against him? What about Chavez's relationships with other OPEC countries? (This last was very briefly touched upon at the end, and given all the terrorist/middle east talk in U.S. politics, it seems a very important topic.) What about the recent referendum? (This was something covered by NPR at one point!) What about Radio Caracas? What about Chavez's rhetoric toward the U.S.? (Not just the "devil" comment.) None of these were discussed in the show--in a positive or negative light.
And, very plainly, what about claims by Venezuelans that the country is in worse shape currently than it has been in the past? I have heard a lot of this, and was hoping to hear both sides of the story. Your guests had nothing negative to say about Chavez, basically presenting only one point of view. You asked no probing questions regarding anything positive or negative about the man being discussed.
I am a big NPR fan, and a member, but in this case, you really dropped the ball.

Sent by A. I. Cid | 12:29 PM | 2-19-2008

I would like to Thank NPR for doing what The Washington Consensus Controlled US media fails to do time and time again and again. The job of media is to provide listeners with objective perspectives on what is going on around the world and in this case NPR did a great job of doing so in a very accurate manner. James Early happens to be one of the most brilliant intellectual brothers that I have had the pleasure of working with in the struggle for Peace and Justice. With that said Mr. Early does not need my validation to endorse his expertise, his work speaks for itself. In addition, I have had the pleasure of being to Venezuela twice, as well as maintaining daily communication with everyday people that live throughout Venezuela that are so thankful for President Chavez's efforts, that includes youngman like Deivis Ortega that can now go to college for free, regardless of the fact that he lives in dire poverty, or the former heroin addict that I met at the Fabricio Ojeda Cooperative that has been clean thanks to the Cuban Doctors that have helped her to heal from her addictions, as well as the youth and families from Proyecto Alcatraz (Whose CEO opposes many of the policies of President Chavez) but still have worked collaboratively jointly to address the housing and economic needs of the town of Quebrada Seca, but I believe the most important thing that we all should be mindful of is that this amazing Revolution is not owned by President Chavez with all due respect, it is the hard work and sweat of the many people that I have met from throughout Venezuela, like the female and youth dominated grassroots efforts that are the real agents of change in Venezuela.
With all that said, like with any other political process that claims to be a democracy, one should always be mindful that there is no such thing as perfection especially when it relates to Democracy, and as one of the most recognized Crusaders for Democracy Harry Belafonte has stated " Only time and history will prove if indeed the outcome will be that of a Democracy that works for all". I should hope that all the bloggers that have been throwing rocks are mindful of how much this dysfunctional "So called democracy" called the US could learn from our neighbors in Venezuela.

Sent by Luis | 2:51 PM | 2-19-2008

I want to thank NPR for your coverage on such an important figure of Latin America.. Hugo Chavez. No doubt that the regional impact Chavez has on the region is based on the economic power based on oil revenue... excellent story

Sent by Rodrigo Leiva | 5:07 PM | 2-20-2008

From the high level of English of most Venezuelans who sent in a comment here , it is clear that they belong to the middle class or upper middle class in their own country. Almost by definition that makes them diabolize Chavez. Although I'm Belgian, I know Venezuela and Caracas pretty well. I can assure all listeners that for the poor the situation has improved a lot since Chavez was elected president. Many of the present problems like the supply of milk are organized by company owners that want to get rid of Chavez. The purpose of the middle and traditional elite class is to return to the days of president Perez when the poor had no political impact whatsoever and therefore were ignored no matter what political party was in office [remember El Pacto de Punto Fijo ?] and when most of the country's natural wealth was diverted to the foreign bank accounts of a few families. I predict the following CIA inspired actions to eliminate Chavez; union strikes to destabilize the economy in VZLA, allegations against Chavez of connections to terrorism and drug trafficking, and a border conflict between Colombia and VZLA. With the aid of FOX they will eventually depict Chavez as a treat to ' the American people' and US interests. Exxon Mobile can't wait to see the day US troops will invade VZLA 'to bring back democracy'. History always repeats itself.

Sent by Patrik | 4:56 PM | 2-26-2008