Few Americans know that Hugo Chávez has brought dignity, food, and a say in politics to many of the poor Venezuelans who were excluded from the wealth and upward mobility of the oil-boom years. Organized in neighborhood councils, Venezuela’s poor feel like citizens for the first time in their country’s now 50 years of democracy. They can debate public issues, contribute to the development of their neighborhoods, and get access to healthcare.
Why don’t Americans know that Cesar Chavez stomped on democracy in the UFW, purging anyone who spoke up to disagree with him and slandering loyal supporters as spies and seducers? And why don’t Americans know that Hugo Chávez offers the dignity of recognition and citizenship, along with material resources for communities and families, to people who have been suffering brutal poverty since the end of the oil boom in the early 1980s?
We don’t know these things because we don’t like to see politics in complicated packages.