Go Venezuela! (at least on two counts)
Found a couple of interesting articles about Venezuela. To some in the US, the government of Hugo Chavez is fast becoming a 'threat of a good example', to use Noam Chomsky's phrase.
From Ted Rall's article 'The Grave Danger of Hugo Chavez Successful Socialism'
"When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries' treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud's case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela's oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering.
In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chavez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chavez's use of oil revenues is unfair--even cheating somehow: "With Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year," the paper exclaimed, "Mr. Chavez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America."
Gosh, how terrible - Hugo Chavez uses oil revenues to pay for eye operations and heating for poor people - The US can't stand that :) Especially when it demonstrates the US suffers from such 'poor governance' the poorest Americans are in need of aid from abroad.
Of course the meager proportion of national income the US gives other countries as development assistance is called 'development programs' and the actions of Venezuela are a completely different matter.
According to OECD figures, of the 22 wealthiest countries in the world, the US ranks as the second least generous country when it comes to providing foriegn aid (21st out of 22 when aid is measured as a portion of gross national income). On that note, NZ could do better here too!
Ted Rall again,
"The [Venezuelan] government is making billions of dollars [from its state oil company] and spending them on houses, education, medical care," notes CNN. And--gasp--people's lives are improving. What if the rest of us noticed? No wonder Chávez has to go."
Chavez is also a strong proponent of open-source computer software, making Venezeula one of the first countries to encourage its public sector to dump expensive Microsoft bloatware in favour of open-source alternatives.
In 2004 Chavez ordered all Venezuelan public institutions to adopt open source software, a move that could save millions. Chavez said previous governments spent more on licensing fees for proprietary software than social programs to fight poverty.
The Science and Technology ministry of Venezeula recently hosted the Latin American Free Software Installation Fair. The ministry said the fair is part of Venezuela's move toward "technological sovereignty, and taking advantage of knowledge for building national scientific independence."