Jon Lee Anderson and John Cassidy analyse the leader who changed Venezuela.
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“He tried to change the country from top to bottom,” Anderson says, simply. And on many fronts, he was successful: “Their standard of living has been raised in formal terms,” Anderson continues. “Chávez did a great deal to bring medical care, subsidized food, and increased educational access for the poor in the country.” But lifting a country out of poverty is a formidable task, and in some areas—housing and public safety, especially—Venezuela still has far to go. Chávez, Anderson says, “leaves his countrymen and his country in this state of limbo.”
That could be said of the country’s economy, as well. Venezuela has vast oil wealth—“It’s a sort of small-scale version of Saudi Arabia or Russia,” Cassidy says—but its economy doesn’t produce much else, which makes it vulnerable. “When the oil price goes up, Venezuela does well,” Cassidy notes. “When the oil price goes down, as it did in 2009 and 2010, Venezuela goes into a recession.” Now, with Chávez gone, all that oil could have some real downsides: as we’ve seen with other oil-rich countries, all that opportunity for making money can create incentive for corruption and, potentially, civil unrest. And because Venezuela is such a major provider of oil to other countries, as Cassidy points out, “It doesn’t just matter for Venezuela, it matters for the whole world.”
Chávez wanted his country to be far more than just an oil producer, though. Anderson says Chávez “thought that it would be better for everyone if the United States was no longer the single super power,” and envisioned himself as a “band leader” among “mouths that roared against Washington.”
That won’t happen now, but what happens over the next few weeks and months, and in the upcoming Presidential elections, will help determine the extent to which Venezuela continues to follow the path set out by Chávez. As Cassidy says, “It’s going to be fascinating, and a bit unnerving, to watch what happens there over the next decade or so.”
Read more at The New Yorker.