Latin America turns

The Western media characterises Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as a dictator (principally because he doesn’t subscribe to a Washington-centric worldview.) It seems his people are pretty happy:

Venezuelans view their democracy more favorably than the citizens of all other Latin American countries view their own democracies, except Uruguay, according to a new survey released by the Chilean NGO Latinbarometro last Saturday. Also, Venezuela is in first place in several measures of political participation, compared to all other Latin American countries.

According to the Latinobarometro survey, Venezuelans rank their democracy as being more fully realized than the citizens of all other surveyed countries do except Uruguay. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 means a country that is not democratic and 10 is a country that is completely democratic, Venezuelans, on average, gave their own democracy a score of 7.0. The Latin American average was 5.8, with Uruguay having the highest score, of 7.2, and Paraguay the lowest, at 3.9.

Similarly, Venezuelans say more often than the citizens all other countries except Uruguayans that they are satisfied with their democracy. 57% of Venezuelans are happy with Venezuelan democracy, which is the second highest percentage, with 66% of Uruguayans expressing satisfaction. The average for all countries surveyed was 38%, with citizens of Peru, Ecuador, and Paraguay, expressing the least satisfaction, of 23%, 22%, and 12% respectively.

For Venezuela, the percentage of citizens surveyed who indicated satisfaction increased more since 1998, the year Chavez was elected, than any other country. The percentage expressing satisfaction increased from 32% to 57% in those eight years.

In terms of political participation, Venezuelans indicate that they are more politically active than the citizens of any other surveyed country. Venezuelans have the highest percentage of citizens that say they discuss politics regularly (47%, average is 26%), who say that they try to convince others on political matters (32%, average is 16%), who participate in demonstrations (26%, average is 12%), and who say they are active in a political party (25%, average is 9%).

With regard to whether they believe that elections in their country are “clean,” Venezuelans answer in the affirmative 56% of the time, which puts them in third place, after Uruguay (83%) and Chile (69%). These were the only three where over half said they believed elections were clean. On average, only 41% of Latin Americans expressed confidence in elections in their country. Paraguayans (20%) and Ecuadorians (21%) expressed the least confidence in their elections.

According to Latinobarometro, Venezuelans and Uruguayans expressed the highest percentage of confidence that elections were the most effective means to promote change in their country (both 71%), compared to 57% for all of Latin America.… 

If you asked the average Australian or American about their views on democracy, the results would be uniformly negative. Many people feel disenfranchaised from the system. Money buys access. Participation is low. War is sanctioned despite a majority of the population being against it.