To the majority of the Venezuelan population, late president Hugo Chávez was a hero.
Despite Venezuela being one of the richest countries in Latin America, the contrast between rich and poor is vivid. A majority of the population lives in bare brick homes piled on hills called “barrios,” while a minority enjoy the lavish of luxurious villas completely detached
Chávez was the voice of “barrio” neighborhoods, and they were his focus.
The product of poverty and a barefoot childhood, Chávez understood the value of solidarity with people and “sharing the bread when there was little.” During his years at Venezuela’s military academy, he learned about and was inspired by Simón Bolívar—a political military leader who struggled for independence from Spain.
Chávez was demonized and strongly opposed by the U.S. He represented a different way and was a threat to many with strong stances against imperialism. His international allies were not the common ‘good guys,’ but others who dared to take stances for their people.
After becoming president in 1998, barrios appeared on maps, and numbers of the population were included into society. Oil wealth was used to drive down prices and the constitution voted for the people, by the people, became a best seller, with parts of it included on products around the country.
Chávez’s critics are full of descriptions for him. At worst he was described as a dictator and, at best, he was simply a master of the media. Venezuelan’s local televisions channels aired opposition’s continuous critics. It was difficult to see his demonized dictatorship when his harshest opposition continuously aired the flaws of his tactics.
Weekly he aired a show called ‘Aló Presidente,’ on which he would discuss plans and virtually welcomed the Venezuelan public into his living room as he shared secrets, memories, pet-peeves, impressions of political happenings and even sang.
It is not difficult to see why his critics were so hard on him; he was not an ordinary public figure. He followed no rules that a head of state would. He simply was what he could be, with a specific aim that he was dedicated to, the betterment of life in Venezuela.
‘Aló Presidente’ did not ignore issues that the public faced nor did it propagate an illusionary image of Venezuela. Unscheduled it could run for five hours at once, each time with a different subject and from a different place. It was a zealous show where the president would openly speak his thoughts, once criticizing Columbian president as a criminal on air.
Chávez left behind a legacy if anything, his willingness to benefit the poor and better their condition out speaks the heaviest criticism.