I don't agree with all things Hugo Chavez, but the following has a great deal of truth in it:
For a journalist with a corporate news service such as Reuters, sitting on a fat salary in a plush Caracas apartment on tap to the opposition (one imagines), this is evidence of the "romantic and affectionate view of Chavez" who is cynically playing "the populist card" to win another term in office. Or to an Associated Press journalist who's never tasted poverty in their life, social programs, often referred to as "oil-fuelled spending largesse" in anti-Chavez corporate press jargon, can be dismissed as Chavez "spending heavily on social programs...this year seeking to shore up support," i.e. cynically buying votes. Never mind the historical record, which shows a long-term commitment of behalf of the Chavez government to social spending, with poverty more than halved among numerous other social achievements. This commitment includes maintaining social spending during the 2009-10 recession in Venezuela, when no presidential election was in sight, in order to offset the negative effects of the global economic crisis on the Venezuelan people, a move apparently beyond the means of many "first world" nations.
Indeed, the young woman who told me that "love" was the reason she voted for Chavez wasn't being tricked by some populist image or last minute spending burst. She came from a poor family which used to live in a shanty house near where the Merida rally took place. Now she is about to graduate as a doctor in the government's integral community medicine program, and would have been excluded from the Venezuela's traditionally elite medical system. Her shanty house had also been transformed into a dignified home through the community driven "homes for shanties" program, part of the government's mass housing construction mission. It's transformations like these that have earned Chavez such strong support, as much as it pains the international media to say so. Indeed, according to corporate media sources, gaining the support of the popular majority through directing government policy toward their needs seems to be a bad thing for "democracy", with former Council of Foreign Relations analyist Joe Hirst recently arguing that Venezuela needs to take lessons on democracy from the US. What rubbish. At least former US President Jimmy Carter has added a dose of reality to what has been atrociously misleading reporting by most mainstream media outlets on Venezuela's election, stating that in his opinion Venezuela's electoral system is the best in the world.