[OPE-L] Chavez embraces socialism (but not the old kind)

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Fri Feb 25 2005 - 21:35:32 EST

Defying U.S., Venezuela's Chavez Embraces Socialism
Fri Feb 25, 2005 02:59 PM ET

By Pascal Fletcher

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday 
embraced socialism as his ideology of choice in a political statement that 
sharpened his antagonism against the United States.

Chavez, a firebrand nationalist who has governed the world's No. 5 oil 
exporter for six years, has persistently declined to define the precise 
ideology of his self-styled "revolution."

But, addressing an international meeting on poverty in Caracas, he said 
Western-style capitalism was incapable of solving global economic and 
social problems.

"So, if not capitalism, then what? I have no doubt, it's socialism," said 
Chavez, who also rebuffed U.S. criticism of his left-wing rule in Venezuela 
and denounced President Bush as the "great destabilizer of the world."

Since coming to power, he has irritated Washington by developing alliances 
with China, Russia and Iran and flaunting a close personal friendship with 
Cuba's Communist President Fidel Castro, a longtime foe of the United States.

Chavez's public support for socialism recalled Castro's defining 
announcement in the early 1960s that his 1959 Cuban Revolution was "socialist."

Chavez said he had up to now avoided labeling his political program in 
Venezuela as "socialist."

But he added his personal experience in power, which included surviving a 
brief coup in 2002, had convinced him that socialism was the answer. "But 
what kind?"

Chavez, who won a referendum in August ratifying his rule until early 2007, 
said previous experiences of socialism in the world -- an apparent 
reference to the former Soviet Union -- might not be the example to follow.

"We have to invent the socialism of the 21st century," he added.

Venezuela's 1999 constitution promoted by Chavez enshrines a multi-party 
political system and he has denied he is a communist. But he has 
intensified state intervention in the economy, encouraged the formation of 
cooperatives and is pursuing land reforms critics say threaten private 

Chavez resumed his aggressive stance just a day after his vice president, 
Jose Vicente Rangel, called for talks with the United States and said 
Caracas was ready to help fight terrorism and drug-trafficking and keep oil 
flowing to the United States.

But Rangel had also echoed Chavez's anti-U.S. criticisms, and U.S. 
diplomats here complain their requests for meetings with government 
ministers are turned down.


While Venezuela remains a key oil supplier to the U.S., Chavez has this 
year stepped up a war of words with the United States. Secretary of State 
Condoleezza Rice has called him a "destabilizing influence" in Latin America.

A former paratroop officer, Chavez was first elected in a 1998 election, 
six years after leading a botched coup bid.

Opponents of the Venezuelan leader, whom Chavez dismisses as puppets of the 
United States, accuse him of ruling like a dictator and dragging the 
country toward Cuba-style communism.

In what Caracas calls "impertinent" meddling, U.S. officials are also 
opposing Venezuela's purchase of Russian helicopters and automatic rifles 
for its armed forces.

"The only destabilizer here is George W. Bush, he's the big destabilizer in 
the world, he's the threat," Chavez said. He has condemned the U.S.-led 
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Chavez also repeated charges that the increased U.S. criticism was 
preparing the ground for an attack against Venezuela and included a plan to 
assassinate him. U.S. officials have rejected this as "ridiculous."

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Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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