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Chavez defends record as leader

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Chavez defends his government's policies in CNN interview
  • President remains controversial in and outside his country
  • Socialism is the path all countries should take, Chavez says
  • Chavez says Obama has been a "disappointment"

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- Despite concerns of attacks against freedom of the press and opposition politicians, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez defended his track record as leader of the South American country in an interview with CNN en Espaņol.

Chavez's socialist "Bolivarian Revolution" and his strong-handed tactics have made him a controversial figure. His popularity remains high among his base, but the country is politically polarized. Opposition governors and mayors accuse Chavez of undermining their authority in order to consolidate power for the central government.

His government has also cracked down on broadcasters who have violated rules, though those affected say that their removal from the airwaves were politically motivated.

To his supporters, Chavez has been an equalizing force, narrowing the traditionally large wealth gap between rich and poor.

"The path to socialism is the path that the entire world should take," Chavez told CNN en Espaņol's Juan Carlos Lopez in the interview, which aired Tuesday night. "Capitalism is the path and the kingdom of injustice, and for that matter of social violence, political violence, violence between nations, wars, etc."

The president's convictions remain steadfast, and he defended the allegations made against him by opposition governments.

There are more than 40 political parties in Venezuela, which Chavez cited as evidence of freedom speech in the country. He also noted that there are opposition governors and mayors, as well as an opposition television channel, though he didn't mention the controversies in these two areas.

The diversity of political thought is welcome in Venezuela, he said, but "what we cannot permit is what happened in 2002," referring to a coup that year that ousted him briefly.

He also denied that the country was polarized. Rather, he said, it is fractured among many groups. Using a piece of cardboard, Chavez illustrated how instead of two powerful parties diametrically opposed, there was the large, ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and not one opposition, but many splintered opposing factions.

Chavez also spoke about his prickly relationship with the United States.

Asked about President Barack Obama, Chavez replied, "We have not seen a great change. Obama has been like one of those pitchers who are expected to be stellar but end up being wild."

"From my point of view, up to now, Obama has been a disappointment to the great expectations that he himself helped generate," Chavez said.