After more than 14 years in office in Venezuela, there is no doubt that Hugo Chavez transformed the country in profound ways – from improving access to education, increasing government welfare for the poor, to more political engagement by Venezuelans and increased funding for sports and cultural projects.
The longest-running, democratically elected president in South America, Hugo Chavez’s firebrand mix of populism and nationalism has alienated his opponents and enthralled his supporters.
Figures from Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics show a marked decrease in the percentage of Venezuelans coming from a ‘poor home’ in 2011 as compared to 1998. Nonetheless, crime remains rampant in Venezuela and black markets for foreign currency thrive because of the strict price controls imposed on goods and foreign currency by the central government.
In terms of creating a more politically active climate, Al Jazeera reports:
Turnout in the October 7 election was a record 80.4 percent of Venezuela’s 19 million registered voters, and people around the country have been holding vigils praying for the president’s health.
Whether for him or against him, many Venezuelans are now aware of their rights and duties as citizens and exercise this power at the ballot box, a notion foundational to perpetuating democratic tradition.