Letters to the Editor
The Times May 19, 2006
Sir, Your coverage of President Chávez’s visit to London (reports and Thunderer, May 16) misrepresents the record of the President’s administration in Venezuela.
Far from Chávez’s opponents being repressed, as you suggest, they control the vast majority of the media, including 95 per cent of the country’s 180 newspapers, and five out of five private TV stations, which pump out anti-Chávez propaganda around the clock.
You claim Chávez has contributed to a steep recession when in reality, since the defeat of the strike by oil industry managers early in 2003, Venezuela has enjoyed the most rapid economic growth in the region. GDP grew 9.3 per cent last year and is projected to be 7 per cent for 2006.
You claim poverty has increased when in reality it has decreased, with massive increases in spending on education and health care, in particular. Unesco certifies that under Chávez illiteracy has been eliminated in Venezuela for the first time.
Seventeen million Venezuelans have been given access to free healthcare for the first time in their lives. A quarter of a million people are having their sight restored, shantytown dwellers are being given title to their homes and millions are being given the opportunity to continue their education in adulthood.
That is why, despite an overwhelmingly hostile media, Chávez stands at more than 70 per cent in opinion polls and his supporters have won ten elections over the past seven years, all judged free and fair by international observers.
That is also why more than a million people took to the streets to defeat the attempt by the opposition to remove him through an anti-democratic military coup widely thought to have been orchestrated from Washington.
Hugo Chávez is one of the most popular leaders in his own country, and in the world today, because the combination of democracy and social justice, which he represents, is something to which the majority of people on this planet aspire. <\lj-cut>