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Mary H. Hall: Fuller picture needed of Chavez leadership

To the editor:

A recent letter to the editor in the Gazette lauded the achievements of the late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. An article in the Jan. 28 issue of the New Yorker tells a different story.

My sense is that the author, Jon Lee Anderson, is a careful observer. Visiting Caracas to gather material, Anderson found a city beset by crime. As I read his account, the “malandros,” or thugs, having long since taken over internal governance of the penitentiaries where they were serving time, had emerged and were taking ownership of Caracas as a whole. Kidnapping is rife in that city.

Reading Anderson’s piece, I did not see it demonstrate that Chavez could be blamed for there being many poor and homeless people in Venezuela. However, it did appear that Chavez’s efforts to provide housing in Caracas had been haphazard and insufficient.

I do not want to draw conclusions from the New Yorker piece as to the relative merits of capitalism and socialism. What seems imperative to me is for us, here, to treasure honesty and integrity in our common life, as we seek to make a society that works for all of us. The challenges to obtaining workable solutions, even here, are great, and are going to become much greater, moving ahead, as such writers as Michael Klare, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Lester Brown and Richard Heinberg point out to us.

We are also exporting our tax base. In conditions that test our individual and collective characters, we need to test every ideology, and cherish every valid insight.

I hope the writer of the letter I cite might read Anderson’s piece, which would be available online, as well as at the public library.

Mary H. Hall

South Hadley

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