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Less than two years ago, the Isocracy Network published a brief piece on the Venezuelan elections and the major economic and political changes that had occurred in that country in the preceding decade [1]. Standing outside of the hyperbolic opposition of the (usually) U.S. right-wing who condemned the Chávez government, sometimes for an apparent lack of democracy but mostly for its socialism, and the similarly the Chavistas of the left who could see in no (or at best) very little wrong with his rule. In contrast to these positions, the Isocracy Network article noted the real reductions in poverty, establishment of co-operatives, land reform, health care and education, employment, and improvements in real GDP. These were largely built on oil wealth, operating on a sound principle that natural resource wealth belongs to the people in common, and achieved more with elections that were mostly free, albeit insufficiently fair. Now that Chávez has died, like so many others it is necessary to engage in a retrospective.

For opponents of Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution the succession of election victories (1998; 56.20% to 39.97%., 2000; 59.8% to 37.5%., 2006; 62.84% to 36.90%., 2012; 55.07% to 44.31%), would have been a source of some frustration, and for his supporters, a cause for elation. Both emotional responses were quite legitimate. For there can be absolutely no doubt that Chávez was a genuine advocate for the seriously impoverished of his country, who had been disenfranchised for generations. Not only did Chávez himself came from a working-class family and from 2002 to 2011, since 2004 poverty has been halved and extreme poverty reduced by seventy percent, not through cash handouts but by the provision of housing, education, and - surpising to some - private sector growth [2]. It is not without reason that Chávez's death was met with an enormous outpouring of support from among the poorest people of the world, whilst the well-off members of the capitalist world who loathed his rule expressed a weirdly necrophiliac joy.

More at:

TL;DR version. When Chavez's government was socialist, it was good. When it acted contrary to the principles of democratic and civil rights, it was not.
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