This past fall, the Independent‘s Owen Jones wrote that Hugo Chavez’s towering feat was “proving it is possible to lead a popular, progressive government that breaks with neo-liberal dogma”:
Even opponents of Chavez told me that he is the first Venezuelan president to care about the poor. Since his landslide victory in 1998, extreme poverty has dropped from nearly a quarter to 8.6 per cent last year; unemployment has halved; and GDP per capita has more than doubled. Rather than ruining the economy – as his critics allege – oil exports have surged from $14.4bn to $60bn in 2011, providing revenue to spend on Chavez’s ambitious social programs, the so-called “missions”.
But when it comes to his relationship with his opposition, Chavez has arguably been pretty lenient. Many of them – including [recent presidential opponent] Capriles – were involved in a US-backed, Pinochet-style military coup in 2002, which failed only after Chavez’s supporters took to the streets.