Interesting titbits from the BBC:
But no amount of support from the American filmmaker can disguise a simple truth; domestic support for President Chavez’s “Bolivarian” socialism (named in homage to Latin America’s 19th Century liberator Simon Bolivar) is being sorely tested by a second consecutive year of economic recession.
Venezuela possesses the biggest reserves of oil outside the Middle East and supplies more than one-tenth of US oil imports, but still the economy has woefully underperformed against others in Latin America in the last two years.
Inflation has leapt to 30% and seems likely to rise further. The Venezuelan currency has been devalued and is still sinking amongst Caracas’s black market money changers.
‘Road to hell’
In the capital’s sprawling hillside neighbourhoods, jobs are scarce and Mr Chavez’s Socialist party is looking electorally vulnerable just three months before National Assembly elections.
So, I guess all that socialism isn’t protecting the country from the evils of capitalism?
What am I saying? It’s all America’s fault!
In his HARDtalk interview, the president blamed his country’s economic woes squarely on America’s “rampant, irresponsible capitalism” which was taking the world “on the road to hell”.
“In England and in Europe you should know this,” Mr Chavez went on. “‘You have more problems than we do.”
He quoted a stream of economic statistics to illustrate his claim that 11 years of socialism had “begun to redress the balance between a very rich Venezuelan minority and a very poor majority.”
Yep, at 30% inflation, and policies driving away the rich, everyone left will be poor in no time flat.
Domestic critics of Mr Chavez’s nationalisation programme – which has turned the oil, power and agriculture sectors into vast state bureaucracies – accuse him of creating a “Bolivarian bourgeoisie” of corrupt officials and cronies.
But Mr Chavez emphasised he intended to go further with his socialist model.
Privately owned enterprises are now being expropriated with increasing frequency – a recent controversial example involved the French-owned Exito supermarket chain after allegations of profiteering and currency manipulation.
In other words, he’s seizing profitable companies, and when investors try to leave, accusing them of manipulating the currency.
“Eleven years ago I was quite gullible,” the president said. “I even believed in a ‘third way’. I thought it was possible to put a human face on capitalism. But I was wrong.
How big of him, to admit he was wrong about letting people have economic freedom!
“The only way to save the world is through socialism, but a socialism that exists within a democracy. There’s no dictatorship here.”
Mr Chavez became visibly agitated when faced with a set of specific questions about his government’s respect for the independence of the judiciary, the freedom of the press and the rights of political opponents.
He was asked about the imprisonment of one of his fiercest critics, former defence minister Raul Baduel, and the pending charges filed against former opposition candidate Oswaldo Alvarez Paz.
The Venezuelan president responded: “You don’t know what you’re saying. Wow, does the BBC in London defend corruption. You are being used. You really don’t know what you’re saying.”
As the tension in the presidential palace rose, Oliver Stone who was seated in a corner listening intently to the exchanges – along with a host of presidential aides and one of the president’s daughters – gestured to the president with both hands.
The message was easy to read: Calm down.
Nice to see a western filmmaker complicit in all this.
Venezuelans are used to seeing an angry president. Last week he went on television to vent his fury on a judge who ruled that a wealthy businessman should be freed from detention after three years of imprisonment without trial.
Mr Chavez accused the judge, Maria Afiuni, of behaving worse than an assassin and he demanded that she be jailed for 30 years. Judge Afiuni is now in prison facing corruption charges.
Nope, no dictatorship at all.