Hugo Chavez’s Legacy

René Howard-Paéz

March 20, 2013

Just two weeks ago, longtime president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Chavez was president for fourteen years, a time marked by perhaps more demonization than any other democratically elected president.

Chavez’s climb to power was no easy one. He survived a military coup in his early days, which reportedly was backed by the United States government.  After Chavez regained control of the oil industry, he began his promise to return that wealth to the country. With renewed control, Chavez was able to decrease poverty, provide millions access to health care for the first time, and increase access to education. Chavez’s main campaign promise was to share the country’s oil wealth with the majority – and he kept that promise.

Chavez leaves behind a tremendous yet complex legacy. He had a shaky relationship with the world, and an interesting one in his country. Chavez received love from the majority, but was heavily chastised by opposition parties.

Chavez championed the poor, something that takes a lot of courage for any politician, and something he will always be remembered for.

Critics of Chavez often made him out to be an uncouth clown and threw titles such as dictator and tyrant his way.

But, who am I to tell you what to think about Chavez’s legacy? Here’s a little bit about my background, as it relates to this story. My mother was born and raised in Venezuela, only leaving to start a family in the United States at the age of 26.

My mother’s family was poor and she is proud of her humble roots. I have been blessed to be able to experience the country’s rich culture, having traveled to Venezuela more than a dozen times to visit my mother’s family.

One important thing that I have learned from having one foot in both worlds is how to be a healthy news consumer. Many people have approached me giving me their opinions on the situation in Venezuela, and I have been shocked at the types of things that they argue.

Yes, Chavez wasn’t perfect, said whatever he thought, wore his heart on his sleeve, and at times didn’t know when to stop talking. However, he showed his passion and intensity towards his country consistently, something that will never be doubted.

Chavez was not perfect, but he cared about those who most populated his country – the poor. He was re-elected constantly by wide margins- a note that media outlets tend to ignore.

Venezuela is now in a state of transition, hopefully into a new era of more progress for a country with much potential. Vice President Nicolas Maduro will run against opposition leader Henrique Caprilles to see who will be the next president of Venezuela. Whoever wins will have to not only make changes but also continue the progress that Chavez initiated.