Hugo Chávez: the most popular leader in the Middle East

The results of the new survey of ‘Arab opinion’ conducted by Zogby International show that Barack Obama has a much more favourable rating than did his predecessor as US president. But when asked to name the world leaders whom they most admire, the participants put the President of Venezuela at the top of the poll.

The survey, which was conducted in April and May 2009, sampled the views of 4,087 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. According to the respected Zogby polling organisation, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.6%. One of the questions put to the participants was “which two world leaders (outside your own country) do you admire most?” The most frequently named leader is Hugo Chavez, at 36%. Following Chavez in order of admiration are Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and former President of France Jacques Chirac (both at 18%), Osama bin Laden (16%), Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (15%) and the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy (14%). Continue reading

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VII Social Summit for the Latin American and Caribbean Unity

By Noam Chomsky

During the past decade, Latin America has become the most exciting region of the world. The dynamic has very largely flowed from Caracas, Venezuela, with the election of a leftist president dedicated to using Venezuela’s rich resources for the benefit of the population rather than for wealth and privilege at home and abroad, and to promote the regional integration that is so desperately needed as a prerequisite for independence, for democracy, and for meaningful development. The initiatives taken in Venezuela have had a significant impact throughout the subcontinent, what has now come to be called “the pink tide.” The impact is revealed within the individual countries, most recently Paraguay, and in the regional institutions that are in the process of formation. Among these are the Banco del Sur, an initiative that was endorsed in Caracas a year ago by Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz; and the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, which might prove to be a true dawn if its initial promise can be realized.

The ALBA is often described as an alternative to the US-sponsored “Free Trade Area of the Americas,” though the terms are misleading. It should be understood to be an independent development, not an alternative. And, furthermore, the so-called “free trade agreements” have only a limited relation to free trade, or even to trade in any serious sense of that term; and they are certainly not agreements, at least if people are part of their countries. Continue reading