Hi everyone. My name is Melissa Whetstone and I'm a community editor at The Globe and Mail. Today we are joined by editorial writer Marina Jimenez.
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 4:58:24 PM
Hi Marina, thanks for joining us today
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 4:58:32 PM
Thanks for having me Melissa. It is a big day in Venezuela.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 4:58:58 PM
You were in Caracas in 2006 to cover the election, and again in 2009. What was Hugo Chavez like then? What was Venezuela like then?
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 4:59:32 PM
He was a very magnetic figure, and very divisive.
So his opponents bitterly hated and resented him, while he had an almost messianic hold over his supporters.
I attended a few political rallies and they were just crazy, filled with supporters in red T-shirts and berets chanting slogans, shouting ‘down with the oligarches’ and really identifying
with the leader in a very personal way. Really noisy, raucous affairs.
What surprised me the most about Venezuela was how much they liked to shop and groom themselves and enjoy the latest consumer products –
not necessarily traits one would associate with a socialist revolution. Their oil economy made their economy lopsided so they import everything,
every consumer good and even food product you can think of. But the malls were filled with people and the women paid a lot of attention
to their appearance, which I suppose is typical for Latin America and the Caribbean. The poor had also been very marginalized by the governments that came
before Chavez, so they felt left out of the political process. Chavez, who was mestizo of mixed racial origin, gave the poor a voice and a sense of dignity. The former
rulers were members of the white, elite establishment.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:00:09 PM
And why was Chavez so popular not just in the country but the region?
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:02:16 PM
Chavez was an incredibly dynamic figure with lots of energy and what American military people call a “command presence”. His booming voice and solid physical presence made him really fill up a room. The country is filled with posters and images of him.
by Marina Jimenez edited by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:03:54 PM
He loved to hog the limelight on his weekly radio show and was an avid tweeter.
Regionally, his outsized personality is appealing to some in Latin America, which culturally values passion perhaps more than Anglo-Saxons do.
But he also reached out through petro-diplomacy and that was the main reason he was able to be a regional leader. He gave subsidized oil to Cuba, Nicaragua and other countries, and revelled
antagonizing and deriding the U.S. – even as the country continued to be one of Venezuela’s biggest oil importers.
by Marina Jimenez edited by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:05:06 PM
Is there anyone who can fill this hole that Chavez’s death has left in the region?
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:08:29 PM
It is going to be very difficult. The vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, who he appointed, will succeed him until an election is held in 30 days.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:08:54 PM
I have not met Mr. Maduro, but he is 50, a former bus driver and
described as being quite “wooden” in public and nothing like Chavez, though of course was a loyal supporter going back to the days before Chavez was even elected president.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:09:40 PM
The president of the assembly, Diosdado Cabello, is another contender to inherit the Chavez mantle. He has the support of the military but Maduro is the more likely candidate.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:10:10 PM
On the other side, there is the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda state. He lost against Chavez by 11 points in the October, 2012 election.
He is youthful and vigorous and sees Brazil as a good model for Venezuela.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:10:43 PM
What will Chavez's legacy be?
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:12:15 PM
I think his legacy will be mixed. On the one hand, Chavez developed a strong political movement and was a nationalist whose
“Bolivarian” projects did seek to re-distribute the country’s oil wealth to the poor.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:12:59 PM
He made strides in terms of eradicating illiteracy and increasing the access of the poor to free medical care (thanks to the presence of Cuban doctors in Venezuela
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:13:40 PM
On the other hand, he failed to build a sustainable alternative model of development, such as the one that has emerged in Brazil. He leaves his country of 29 million in an economic mess, with a high debt and deficit and an inefficient oil sector.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:14:31 PM
There has been no foreign investment in this sector for four years.
Oil output at Petroleos de Venezuela is lower than it was in 1999.
Politically, the country remains
very polarized and that is not a good thing.
by Marina Jimenez 3/6/2013 5:15:05 PM
We have a question from a reader wondering what's next for Venezuela.
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:15:50 PM
Here is the question:
by Melissa Whetstone 3/6/2013 5:15:59 PM