Mar 2009 29

I suppose by definition and the law of opposites one person’s hero is another person’s dictator (anti-hero) and Hugo Chavez is certainly no different, a man who inspires both adulation and loathing at home and abroad. So is Hugo Chavez a hero or a dictator?


One thing is certain and that is that supporters view him as a socialist liberator, hailing him for promoting Latin American integration, for being an enemy of imperialism and neoliberalism, empowering Venezuela’s poor and indigenous communities, and reducing poverty and unemployment. Meanwhile critics of Chávez in Venezuela and the United States, claim that the Chávez government is leading Venezuela in an authoritarian direction, with Chavez himself becoming a dictator, abandoning democratic tradition, extending state control over the economy, eliminating dissent, and carrying out “social programs that will set Venezuela back”.


It is clear that Chavez is seen by many as a hero, he obviously sees himself as a revolutionary man of the people standing up against the might of international capital and imperialism. However, he currently sits at a crossroads as the oil that has helped to finance his political policies fluctuates in price and a quasi-fascist undertone becomes more and more evident within his regime.

Moreover, Chavez won a referendum last month that amends the constitution allowing him to run for office for an unlimited umber of years, hardly the most democratic of moves. Indeed, when Chavez solidified his control of the Supreme Court in 2003 many people became very concerned that Chavez seemed to have consolidated control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government. Yet, Chavez himself claims that he needs ten more years in power to ensure that Venezuela’s socialist revolution has fully taken root. This may indeed be the case but the falling price of oil and the growing discontent inside Venezuela may result in Chavez losing his ‘consensual’ mandate sooner rather than later.

So is Hugo Chavez a hero or a dictator? Or is he both? Or maybe despite his intentions the man has merely fallen foul to the famous Lord Acton quote, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Of course the next sentence of the quote begins with the words, “Great men always tend to be bad men”.


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