Hugo Chavez out in the cold for Venezuelan flood victims

14 Dec

After flooding in Venezuela has left thousands homeless, President Hugo Chávez has taken the opportunity to show off his Socialist fair thinking and house the homeless in his office while he sleeps, and works, in a tent outside.

There are 25 families living in the Miraflores palace in Caracas while Chávez governs the country from the Bedouin tent given to him by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who he greatly admires. And now the pair have two things in common: their drafty accommodation and, certainly according to the USA, poor human rights records.

With a reputation for autocracy and an aggressive foreign policy, the damage from Venezuela’s floods offers a great PR opportunity for Chávez, who claims to represent the poor and disadvantaged. Having governed Venezuela for ten years, Chávez won a referendum last year to eliminate term limits and allow him to run for re-election indefinitely. He claims that his Bolivarian Revolution, created to bring Venezuela popular democracy and economic independence in a Socialist system, needs more time to reach completion. In February 2010 a report from the Washington-based Latin American organisation, Organisation of American States, found concerns with Venezuela’s lacking freedom of speech, human rights abuses, authoritarianism and restricted press. It found that Chávez’s government had an increasing strong hold over opposition and control of the judiciary.

Destroyed homes in Caracas

Chávez has been personally supervising the relief effort after the floods and has promised an extensive home-building programme to help the 100,000 people left homeless. Last week he appointed the culture minister Francisco Sesto as the new minister for reconstruction in Caracas. According to Fox News Chávez also promised the government would fund hotel accommodation for flood victims.

People evacuate after severe flooding in Higuerote, North Venezuela

The floods have been caused by the worst rains in a decade which have killed over 30 people. The poor hillside neighbourhoods of Caracas have been the worst affected with landslides sweeping away precarious houses. Colombia and much of Central America have also suffered from one of their worst rainy seasons in decades.

If handled correctly, Venezuela’s natural disaster could turn into a media victory for Chávez; and that shouldn’t be difficult in a country where the press is state-controlled. Rather than replicate the errors made by Pakistan’s President Asif Zardari who abandoned his people during the country’s worst ever floods to visit Europe in August, Chávez can harness the disaster to show off his credentials as a Socialist leader.

Images 1: BBC

Image 2: Reuters

Image 3:


One Response to “Hugo Chavez out in the cold for Venezuelan flood victims”

  1. Jon December 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Another very good PR stunt by Chavez, no doubt. His response to the Wikileaks revelations about his country has been interesting, despite the negative reports that have emerged:

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