Revolution in Ruins: The Hugo Chavez Story

Hugo Chavez
Picture Shows: Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during election campaign. Image Credit: BBC.

This hour-long documentary may well attract the wrath of many – but I suspect it will be more from the British left rather than the Venezuelan left.

That is because one of the very first things you see in this BBC Two documentary, part of the This World strand, is of the late President Chavez attending a gathering in London where he was offering oil to Transport for London. Among those next to him where then-Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, plus – and this is where I suspect the anger will come from – then-backbench Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. We then cut to footage of Corbyn praising Chavez after his death in 2013. You can almost sense the anger on Twitter about to emerge as some will accuse the BBC of anti-Corbyn bias.

However, Corbyn only plays a very small part in this programme, which is about the story of how Chavez came to power, how he used the media to help spread his populist and socialist views, how he tried to achieve his aims using the money from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, and what he did when things started to go wrong. There is also the issue of how as the years came to pass, he seemed to want to have more control of power and over the various industries in the country. Finally, there is his ultimate death from cancer, and how his successor Nicolas Maduro’s rule has led to the country becoming one of the world’s most dangerous, with three million people having fled.

The documentary tries to be balanced, interviewing both pro and anti-Chavez activists, ranging from childhood friends, party members, rival political candidates and critical journalists. The programme is open-ended as to whether Venezuela’s current crisis is due to Chavez’s policies, many of which are still in action, or if it is primarily due to the actions of Maduro. Whichever side you fall down on, it is safe to say that Chavez will always be a figure surrounded by controversy. While he may have had noble ideas about helping the poor and revitalising the nation, his control of power and the rise in both inflation and crime in the country are hard to overlook.

Revolution in Ruins: The Hugo Chavez Story is on BBC iPlayer.