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The coffin of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez is driven through the streets of Caracas after leaving the military hospital where he died of cancer. (STRINGER/VENEZUELA/REUTERS)
The coffin of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez is driven through the streets of Caracas after leaving the military hospital where he died of cancer. (STRINGER/VENEZUELA/REUTERS)

What readers think

March 7: Divided on Chavez, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

Not a dictator

Your front-page article on the death of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez (Death Of A Revolutionary – March 6), calls him “a polarizing dictator.” He was certainly polarizing, as is our own Prime Minister, but Mr. Chavez was never a dictator. Mr. Chavez was elected several times over the past three decades, each time by a significant majority of the popular vote, which is more than we can say for Stephen Harper.

In 2002, Mr. Chavez’s opponents, including the right-wing media, organized a coup against him that was overturned by the massive mobilization of the poor people of Caracas. In 2004, the opposition organized a recall vote, a mechanism created by Mr. Chavez. It failed. In the 2006 election, he won with 63 per cent of the popular vote; in 2012, with 55 per cent of the popular vote.

You may disagree with Mr. Chavez’s 21st-century socialism policies, but please do not describe him as a dictator.

Judy Rebick, Toronto

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According to your editorial (Chavez’s Gifts Failed To Serve Democracy – March 6), Venezuela’s economy “is too reliant on oil revenues.” Sorry, which country was that again?

John Edmond, Ottawa

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Hugo Chavez inherited a country with arguably the largest division in Latin America between rich and poor. He leaves it with virtually zero illiteracy and greatly reduced infant mortality. Hundreds of clinics have been built and access to health care is now guaranteed. Poverty has been reduced from 55 per cent (1995) to 26 per cent (2010); extreme poverty has been reduced from 23 per cent to 9 per cent; unemployment from 14 per cent to 8 per cent.

Mr. Chavez has provided a sense of pride and dignity for Latin America. No longer does U.S. hegemony control the region. While he leaves a country facing considerable challenges (most noticeably violence and corruption), your analysis would be strengthened by a more rounded picture.

John M. Kirk, professor of Latin American studies, Dalhousie University, Halifax

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Death of a “revolutionary”? Say, rather, death of a demagogue who has left behind a country in ruins, and a people who have lost their dignity.

Thais Donald, Port Hope, Ont.

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In Venezuela, the profits from oil have been directed toward the poor, whereas in Alberta, they have benefited the rich and prosperous (Two Chavezes, One Legacy – March 6). If you have to be profligate, I prefer Hugo Chavez’s model. And I think that, in retrospect, the world will honour him more than Don Getty or Ralph Klein or Ed Stelmach.

David Nash, Edmonton

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Hold the lime

I was pleased to read that a large beer company had come up with an idea that doesn’t involve putting lime in my beer (Labatt Looks To Get A ‘Hop’ On The Competition – Report On Business, March 5). Highlighting a single hop is an idea that is already in the marketplace and has been tried with success by craft brewers all over the world – including some in Canada.

Aaron Brown, London, Ont.

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Eco-embarrassment

The Harper government has been consistent in its disdain for science and environmental protection, and its steady reduction in funding and powers for enforcement activities. It and the Alberta government still do not have in place a comprehensive and effective program to monitor oil-sands development activities and their many impacts.

Against this background, for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to characterize Canada as a global environmental leader is ludicrous and embarrassing (In Pitch To U.S., Oliver Touts Environmental Record – Report on Business, March 6).

Jack Johnson, Toronto

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Just wondering …

Re How Netflix Knows What You Want To Watch Before You Do (March 6): After a history of feminist activism beginning in the late sixties, I recently turned to Netflix for some postsurgery entertainment. Following my first five choices, I received “their” recommendations for “films with strong female lead.”

What was their first clue?

Pat Noonan, Windsor, Ont.

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One master

Re Lobbying Role Leaves Head Of Transit Agency Out Of Talks On Casino Impact (March 6): In the past, it was seen as necessary for public-sector authorities – for example, regulation or procurement – to wait for a few years after leaving public service to join the firms they once affected or directed business to.

Now we appear to have people in power who are paid by both sides at the same time. Not attending the odd meeting hardly qualifies as managing potential conflicts of interest – it’s window dressing. Ontario needs to get back to governing and clean up its act: Public-sector leaders can have only one master.

David Kister, Toronto

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Case against candy

When my children were small, I resented the blatant marketing of unhealthy foods (candy) at the checkout (Controversial Push To Cut Childhood Obesity – Life, March 5). On the grocery-store run, not only are parents dealing with making healthy food choices for their children, they are juggling to keep little ones happy while zipping up and down the aisles.

I would congratulate myself on clearing all the sugared cereal, cake, cookie and soda-pop hurdles without a toddler meltdown, only to find a mountain of candies right where we had to go through the cashier. A meltdown almost always ensued. When I complained to managers, nothing happened. It all comes down to marketing and profits, not the health of our families. I applaud Ontario for considering banning this unhealthy promotion and wish all provinces would follow suit.

Jennifer Gaze, Vancouver

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Legal, illegal

A deputy police chief cites extortion, intimidation, human trafficking, massage parlours, money laundering and loansharking as some of the consequences of illegal gambling (Arrests Dismantle Alleged Sports-Betting Ring – March 5).

So “legal” gambling is all food sharing and hootenannies? And bigwig casino supporters are in it for what? The good of mankind?

Joanne Mackay-Bennett, Toronto

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Church and state

You mention that a two-thirds majority is necessary to elect a new pope if it comes down to two candidates (Corrections – March 5). However, should they both be card-carrying NDP members, 50 per cent plus one cardinal might do.

Louis Desjardins, Belleville, Ont.

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