The barrel-chested President Chavez had a booming voice and a grandiose style. His leftist, socialist politics “polarized Venezuelans.” During his 14 years in office he electrified crowds and won the respect and admiration of the Venezuelan poor because of his government social programs. Many in the middle class became disenfranchised by Chavez’s socialist government and complained about rising crime and soaring inflation. During Hugo Chavez’s presidency Venezuela has had one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
Chavez used Venezuela’s oil wealth to create social programs that included state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. Poverty declined during Hugo Chavez’s presidency and there was a boom of historic proportions in Venezuela’s oil earnings. Critics of the leftist leader claim he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy. Regarding his country’s path to socialism, Chavez once said:
“This is the path: the hard, long path, filled with doubts, filled with errors, filled with bitterness, but this is the path. The path is this: socialism.”
In his final years, Chavez often said that Venezuela was well on its way to becoming a socialist nation. Hugo Chavez’s death now puts the eyes of the world upon Venezuelans to determine whether the nation will continue on toward socialism and become the nation Hugo Chavez imagined, or if the country will turn away from the “path to socialism” that Chavez found so dear and harness Venezuela’s vast oil wealth to develop the country’s economy.
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