Hugo Chávez had his flaws but was wrongly demonized

Hugo Chávez was the devil.

Under his 14 years as Venezuela’s president, he cut the percentage of Venezuelans living under the poverty from a peak of 62 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2009, according to the World Bank statistics. He created programs to subsidize food, benefiting approximately 14 million Venezuelans today.

Also, he alphabetized two million Venezuelans who could not read or write. He hired Cuban doctors to assist people in the most precarious places of the country, where medical assistance was inexistent.

He facilitated Venezuelans access to higher education and bettered their health care system.

What a criminal!

Well, at least for American media outlets, who utilized Chávez’s death as an excuse to discredit his revolutionary ideals one last time, those accomplishments seem to not be enough to make him a good leader.

An article by CNN on March 6 (one day after Chávez’s passing) said, “The fervor of his followers, combined with the disdain of the upper classes, created a polarization in Venezuela that runs deeper than anything blue or red in the United States.”

Polarization that runs deeper than in the United States?

Chávez might have been boisterous, sometimes vulgar and firm on excluding the U.S. from Latin American affairs. Can you blame him? Ever since Teddy Roosevelt, Latin America has gained independence from the Europeans only to fall under U.S. control. Since then, the U.S. government has managed to fill the region with leaders that favored its interests. If you don’t believe me, Google “School of the Americas.” You’ll learn all about it.

Anyway, back to polarization.

As the March 6 Reuters/Ipsos online poll showed, President Obama has a 43 percent approval. On March 5, Chávez died with 68 percent approval and the consensus is that Vice President Nicolas Maduro (Chávez’s hand-picked successor) will attain an easy victory when elections are held to find out who will be the next president of Venezuela.

It seems as if when it comes to Chávez, American journalists lose their ability to interpret statistics efficiently. The large majority of Venezuela is chavista, while not even half of the Americans support President Obama. Which country is more polarized?

USA Today gave Chávez page 2A of their paper that same day with a story that led like this: “Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the socialist leader who assailed U.S. influence in Latin America in his campaign against capitalism and democratic freedoms, died Tuesday. He was 58.”

His campaign against democratic freedoms?

Apparently, the fact that, for the last four years, Venezuela has led its region in electoral participation is a synonym of “dictatorship.” In 1998, the participation rate was 54 percent. Today it’s more than 80 percent.

Or maybe what he did in 1999 makes him an evil human. He proposed a referendum (something unprecedented in Venezuela) to change the country’s constitution, assuring the indigenous people three seats in the constitutional assembly. For the first time, the Venezuelan population began to have proportional representation in the legislative process. Yet, that same article by USA Today says that by doing this, “Chávez… rewrote the country’s constitution in his favor.”

Do American journalists not have access to a fact-checking system? Are they not good with numbers, or do they just omit these facts because Chávez’s ideals do not serve to the best interest of their bosses?

After all, our media is owned by multimillionaire conglomerates…and, trust me; rich folks don’t really see socialism with good eyes. Why would they want you to like it?

The sad thing is we actually buy this because, let’s face it, when was the last time you sat down to research Venezuelan history for entertainment? It’s much easier for us to buy the reality the media in our country sell us. Therefore, that’s our only reality and to us, that’s the only truth, sadly.

Opinions of Chávez should be based on whether or not you agree with a more equalitarian economy, not on misconstrued news. But the facts speak for themselves. Our government, through the media, practices a very effective technique when referring to the “enemy.” Chávez wasn’t an exception.

The only freedoms Chávez eradicated were the freedoms the elite exercised by running an economic system based on exploitation.

The wealthiest will never like him. Why? Because he corrected a flawed system and led a revolution that benefited the majority, not just the elites. What they oversee is that, although paying higher taxes might keep them from buying a yacht or new car, millions of other people obtain the right (yes, this should be a human right) to have a plate of food in front of them or a roof over their heads.

What extent can human greed reach to? Chávez has been demonized over and over again because we, as Americans with a higher standard of living, do not know what it’s like to not have something to eat. Lucky us: we were born in the “right” place. But the fact is that the 62 percent of Venezuelans were born on the “unlucky” side. The media might not show it, but they’re there… and Chávez did everything to help them.