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Venezuela nowadays is undoubtedly a crucial point of world’s left network, and Hugo Chavez is one of the brightest left leaders. He is well-known for speaking out the stuff that is usually reserved for inner circles by his more “civilized” colleagues, like Cristina Kirchner, Holland or Bachelet. Latino-American press, which is mostly left, keeps trumpeting Chavez “successes”, and Russian propaganda tries to boost a second Fidel Castro out of him.
I won’t disparage Comandante’s personality – he was an outstanding achiever and a really good public speaker. But in order to explore the reasons of his so-called “achievements” we must look about 50 years back into Venezuelan history, into the time of Betancourt and Gallegos presidencies, and the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez.

Romulo Betancourt was a moderately left politician, disappointed in the classical Marxism. He was one of the founders of the Democratic Action Party, which came to power in 1945 after Isaias Angarita’s regime was overthrown. Betancourt’s political concept is best referred to as moderately left Third Way doctrine. In foreign policy he was a strong opponent of the right political regimes. For instance, under his government Venezuela broke the diplomatic relations with Franco’s Spain and with Trujillo’s Dominican Republic. His vision of Latin America was a political block united by “pink” ideas, opposing the United States by means of cautious cooperation with Europe and the Soviet Union. The taxes rose under the government of Democratic Action. For example, the excess profit tax of 6 to 20 percent was levied, and eventually every profit of more than 28 million bolivars had become subject to 26 percent tax. In 1948 the decision was made not to grant any concessions to the foreign companies. All those measures certainly led to a decrease of income and gave rise of poverty. Betancourt’s successor in 1948, Romulo Gallegos, decided to unravel all the complex of problems by imposing an additional 50% tax on the oil industry. This step was preceded by a mighty propaganda campaign. This is how it was formulated by a Democratic Action representative: “Total purification of Venezuelan oil industry, its ritual purgation, will remain impossible unless the proper compensations are paid by the oil companies to our country”. Government’s inaptness and incompetence became overwhelming, and the industrialists, the senior army officers and the conservative leaders delivered a counter-strike.
On November 24, 1948 the military junta led by Colonel Perez Jimenez seized power in Venezuela. His governance, unofficially called “cesarism”, is recalled by many as a Venezuelan Golden Age – there are even musical projects chanting his deeds. And no wonder – all the subsequent Venezuelan rulers mostly exploited his projects and squandered his heritage.

Read more here: Perez Jimenez against Hugo Chavez

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Kitty Sanders

April 2014

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