Violent crime in Venezuela remains very high, but highest in the state of Miranda, where drug gangs persist and Opposition Presidential candidate Capriles has been Governor for some years. In part due to his shared responsibility for security and crime, Governor Capriles has often focussed on similar themes to those of the national government: education, improved infrastructure and reformed policing. However he refuses to cooperate with the newly formed Bolivarian National Police.
Complaints about judicial independence (and the arrest of one judge for criminality) must be read in the context of a new constitution which has privileged citizen's rights over unlimited property rights. There is a significant shift in values going within a legal system which used to be focussed almost exclusively on property, and a military which had been tutored by the US armed forces. Reorientation towards national and social goals, through Bolivarian values, has certainly caused some friction, and charges of "politicisation'.
But to single out any one or two of such accusations as a basis for judging the Cha'vez legacy is to miss the bigger picture. We see the result of such distortions in a vicious obituary from the BBC, describing Cha'vez as "an autocrat, ruthless and divisive'. This compares badly with the BBC's eulogies for the late Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin-Abdul-Aziz and the late US President Ronald Reagan -- the former a non-elected despot, the latter an emperor who, through his interventions in Central America, unleashed what has been termed "one of the most intensive campaigns of mass murder in recent history' (Nairn 2004). The list goes on.
However Cha'vez was a true champion of human rights, not a violator. As David Edwards of Media Lens points out, "Cha'vez did not invade nations, overthrow governments, commit mass murder, mass torture or mass starvation through sanctions'. Nor did he build his reputation on empty promises. He earned the love of his people through real achievements. That includes his leadership of the 1992 attempted coup. The government of Carlos Andres Perez, backed by Washington, had slaughtered more than 3,000 people in the 1989 Caracas street riots ("the Caracazo') after IMF-directed austerity measures. Remembering the curse of Bolivar on the soldier who raised arms against his own people, Cha'vez swore to dedicate his life to defence of those same marginalised people, mown down in 1989.
It is rare to see a political leader prepared to confront the great powers, making gains on behalf of ordinary people and re-building a social sphere in face of a savage capitalism which demands relentless commodification. To advocates of the neoliberal world, empowering the poor, making great advances in health, education, housing, social security and human solidarity - all these mean nothing, if they do not generate new sources of private accumulation. That is why Cha'vez -- and not mass murderer George W. Bush -- was a devil to them. Most ordinary people, and those with a social conscience, will think differently.