Dear Commons Community,
Hugo Chavez the fiery president of Venezuela died of cancer on Tuesday. The news media throughout the world are reviewing his life and legacy. A New York Times editorial stated:
“Hugo Chávez dominated Venezuelan politics for 14 years with his charismatic personality, populist policies and authoritarian methods before his death this week. His redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans. But his legacy is stained by the undermining of democratic institutions and the embrace of malevolent foreign leaders like Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
There is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority. He won elections by devoting a substantial share of the country’s oil income to building public housing, creating health clinics and making affordable food available to the poorest citizens. But there have also been shocking levels of corruption, shoddy construction, chronic shortages of basic goods, and neglect in the investment needed to maintain and increase oil production. Billions have been squandered through inept and careless management. And the financial ability to sustain Mr. Chávez’s social programs has been seriously eroded.”
There is also an article about Chavez’s involvement with the South Bronx where he donated money and heating oil to the poor. Jose E. Serrano, Democratic Congressman, commented:
““He related to the Bronx, because in so many ways it was just like the Latin America that he wanted to change… He felt very comfortable with the people, and the people felt comfortable with him. It was not an awkward visit. We can criticize his comments or the world leaders he befriended, but you can’t deny the work he did in the Bronx.”
Mr. Chávez was perhaps remembered most fondly in the Bronx for the gallons of heating oil [he donated]…
Citgo has donated seven million gallons to the Bronx in the eight years since the program started, according to Citizens Energy, the Boston organization that manages the project.
“Here was a guy who the corporate media tried to push us to dislike by saying, ‘This guy is trying to empower himself forever,’ ” said Julio Pabon, a City Council candidate who participated in a Citgo-financed food co-op. “That’s not how we saw him in the Bronx. In the Bronx, he was a guy who came here and talked about helping people so they didn’t get strung out trying to pay their heating bills.”