Professor George Ciccariello-Maher thinks post-Chávez Venezuela needs to be more like it is today:
“Since [Chávez’s] election, Venezuela has been fundamentally transformed. Poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by three-quarters, education and health care —once reserved for the wealthy— are now freely available to all Venezuelans. More important than these considerable improvements in social welfare, however, are the political transformations that have taken place in Venezuelan society.
When Chávez was elected, the infamous two-party system disintegrated, and Venezuela has slowly but surely become a more democratic place.
According to the Latinobarómetro poll, Venezuelans have more faith in democracy than any other country in Latin America: no small feat in a place where democracy was at one time equivalent to corruption.”
Ciccariello-Maher writes that, because Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution is still in progress, whoever succeeds Chávez — apparently Vice President Nicolás Maduro — must provide the same kind of leadership that Chávez himself has provided since assuming office in 1999.
Otherwise Venezuela, believe it or not, could grow more leftist, becoming a second Cuba. Or it could move to the right, with conservative agents in the country’s armed forces chomping at the bit — which would make it a second Honduras.
Bad news, in either case.
As difficult it may be for many Americans to swallow, President Hugo Chávez — or at least a Chávez-style administration — is Venezuela’s surest bet. Critics charge that his government is corrupt. Compared to what? Mexico? Honduras? Cuba? Haiti? Nicaragua? Many say Venezuela has become less democratic under Chávez. But again, compared to what?
Admittedly, there is plenty of room for improvement in Venezuela. The intimation of the media by pro-Chávez government agencies, specifically, must come to an end if President Chávez intends to continue boasting of a more open and democratic country.
Yet considering the reforms achieved by the Chávez administration and their benefits to the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution appears to be taking root in South America — and with it, the promise of democratic socialism in Latin America.
Heaven help the people of Venezuela should Bolivarianism end with Chávez.