Here’s a chart from the Economist, showing how dramatically Chavez reduced poverty. The blog post is a classic example of faux-rational Economist promotion of the party line, if you like that kind of thing
Here’s Greg Grandin in the Nation dismissing the argument that Chavez got popular simply by bribing the poor:
During the 2006 presidential campaign, the signature pledge of Chávez’s opponent was to give 3,000,000 poor Venezuelans a black credit card (black as in the color of oil) from which they could withdraw up to $450 in cash a month….But in this election at least, Venezuelans managed to see through the mist. Chávez won with over 62 percent of the vote.
And here’s blood and treasure, arguing that the presence of an unashamedly anti-US socialist in Latin America made it easier for other countries to do their own thing, without worrying so much about the US:
But the rhetorical broadsides did a bit of wider good. You have a leader who survived a coup attempt that the US very much wanted to see succeed and who then based his foreign policy around the Khrushchev principle of throwing a hedgehog down Uncle Sam’s pants at every opportunity: and Uncle Sam went on and let him do it. Uncle Sam was busy at the time rampaging elsewhere and the whole golpista approach was waning after the end of the Cold War. But it sends a signal to even the dimmest Brazilian general, say, that he’d better knuckle down and learn to live with Lula. It lets the coca farmer in the Altiplano know he can vote for who he wants without worrying about the army showing up and conducting a limpieza. It creates political space.