by Prof. James Petras /Global Research, April 17, 2008
Venezuela ‘s President Hugo Chavez remains the world’s leading secular, democratically elected political leader who has consistently and publicly opposed imperialist wars in the Middle East , attacked extra-territorial intervention and US and European Union complicity in kidnapping and torture. Venezuela plays the major role in sharply reducing the price of oil for the poorest countries in the Caribbean region and Central America, thus substantially aiding them in their balance of payments, without attaching any ‘strings’ to this vital assistance. Venezuela has been in the forefront in supporting free elections and opposing human right abuses in the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia by pro-US client regimes in Iraq , Afghanistan and Colombia . No other country in the Americas has done more to break down the racial barriers to social mobility and the acquisition of land for Afro-Latin and Indio Americans. President Chavez has been on the cutting edge of efforts toward greater Latin American integration – despite opposition from the United States and several regional regimes, who have opted for bilateral free trade agreements with the US .
Even more significant, President Chavez is the only elected president to reverse a US backed military coup (in 48 hours) and defeat a (US-backed) bosses’ lockout, and return the economy to double-digit growth over the subsequent 4 years.1 President Chavez is the only elected leader in the history of Latin America to successfully win eleven straight electoral contests against US-financed political parties and almost the entire private mass media over a nine-year period. Finally President Chavez is the only leader in the last half-century who came within 1% of having a popular referendum for a ‘socialist transformation’ approved, a particularly surprising result in a country in which less than 30% of the work force is made up of peasants and factory workers.
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