Mar 122013
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Hugo Chavez portrayed as tyrant because he challenged Western oil domination.

by Linda McQuaig

Had Hugo Chavez followed the pattern of many Third World leaders and concentrated on siphoning off his nation’s wealth for personal gain, he would have attracted little attention or animosity in the West.

Instead, he did virtually the opposite — redirecting vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela’s poor, along with free health care and education.  No wonder he alienated local elites, who are used to being first in line at the national trough.

Chavez’s relentless championing of the downtrodden set a standard increasingly followed in Latin America. It explains his immense popularity with the masses and the widespread grief over his death last week.  Yet in the West, he was portrayed as a tyrant.

He was accused of muzzling the press, although anyone who’s ever turned on a TV in Caracas knows there’s no shortage of Fox News-style media outlets carrying a frothy mix of celebrities, US sitcoms and anti-Chavez tirades.

Hugo Chavez’s 1990s revival of OPEC has ensured a significant share of the world’s oil wealth has gone to Third World producers – including poor nations like Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.

He was also accused of being anti-democratic, even though he won elections which former US president Jimmy Carter and his global election monitoring centre have declared “the best in the world.”

Chavez deservedly came under attack in the West – including from Noam Chomsky — for failing to order the release of a judge imprisoned for allowing a corrupt banker to flee Venezuela with millions of dollars. But we must note that the West routinely ignores more serious democratic failings on the part of its allies, including torture and execution in full-fledged dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

What actually appears to have infuriated the Western establishment was Chavez’s audacity in challenging – and scoring some victories against – Western dominance of the world economy.

One such victory allowed Third World oil-producing nations to gain a bigger share of global oil revenues.

Up until the 1970s, the major western oil companies, known as the Seven Sisters, controlled the world oil market through a cartel established at a secret retreat at Achnacarry Castle in Scotland in 1928. The Achnacarry agreement set out in detail how the companies would maintain their lucrative control of oil markets into the future, setting quotas amongst themselves, never competing with each other and preventing competitors from getting in on the action.

In the 1970s, oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Venezuela organized and managed to replace the Seven Sisters with their own cartel, OPEC, striking a better deal for themselves and sending oil prices soaring. Some enraged Westerners were left wondering “how did our oil get under their sand?”

But the oil companies, backed by Western governments, soon reclaimed their dominance. By the late 1990s, according to Wall Street oil analyst Fadel Gheit, a badly-divided OPEC was on its deathbed. Then miraculously it started to revive.

“It was Hugo Chavez,” says Gheit. “He saved OPEC.”

Chronicling Chavez’s role in reuniting OPEC brought me to Caracas in 2004, for a book I was writing on the geopolitics of oil. In an interview that stretched beyond two hours, Chavez recounted his personal shuttle mission to OPEC nations in August 2000, infuriating Washington by defying its ban on foreign leaders visiting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and then convening the squabbling nations in Caracas.

Although the oil companies have continued to thrive, OPEC’s revival has ensured a significant share of the world’s oil wealth has gone to Third World producers – including poor nations like Algeria, Nigeria and Venezuela.

US oil analyst Michael Tanzer notes that attempts to organize other Third World producing nations around commodities like coffee and copper have failed, with OPEC serving as the lone inspiring model of how the developing world can unite to challenge Western power.

Chavez championed the rising up of the Third World, and did it with flair and verve – often breaking spontaneously into popular love songs in front of cheering throngs at public gatherings – leaving the dull gray suits in the West all the more resentful.

For those concerned with social justice, Chavez’s passing is a sad milestone. It will surely be a while before we’ll see such a feisty mix of Robin Hood, Che Guevara and Michael Bublé straddling the world stage.

About Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a journalist and author. Her most recent book is The Trouble with Billionaires, (co-authored with Neil Brooks). This column originally appeared in The Toronto Star. eMail:


© Copyright 2013 Linda McQuaig, All rights Reserved. Written For:

  2 Responses to “Venezuela’s Robin Hood”

    At last someone from the main stream media has finally come out to tell the truth in his favour of Venezulean, truly a public leader, Hugo Chavez, who died recently of Cancer. 
    USA President Obama & Canada's PM Harper, made a pitiful & shameful statements. Who openly exposed themselves in public, their dislike whoever works for poor & disfranchized, indicating as to who brought them & who are they working for, only the elite & previlaged rich. Western so called Democracy and democratically elected leaders & governments are, of the elitist rich, by the elitist rich and for the elitist rich. 
    Here are some documentaries exposses some truth & facts what USA & Western countries did in South America and in other countries for their idealogy and their governments waging wars to help elitetists to get rich quick: 
    THE WAR ON DEMOCRACY (by USA on Venezuela & Hugo Chavez)- John Pilger's documentary – It explores the current and past relationship of Washington with Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Chile ( 
    WAR MADE EASY: HOW PRESIDENTS & PUNDITS KEEP SPINNING US TO DEATH – The notion of the United States has a divine right to bring what it called liberty to the rest of humanity 
    OBAMA AND Empire – John Pilger. The French and British created the celebrated their own civilizing missions while imposing colonial regimes the denied ( 

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