HUGO CH?VEZ….My post about Hugo Ch?vez last night wasn’t primarily directed at either Ch?vez himself or Venezuela in general, topics I’m only slightly familiar with. It was mostly just an excuse to examine the democracy-promoting credentials of neoconservatives.

Still, I made it pretty clear that I don’t like Ch?vez much, and for the most part I stand by that. Ch?vez has tried to pack Venezuela’s courts and gag its press, and his supporters have intimidated and murdered members of the opposition. And he did originally try to take power in a coup in 1992.

At the same time, though, it would be naive not to acknowledge the realities of Venezuelan politics that Ch?vez labors under. Although Ch?vez is a champion of Venezuela’s poor, promoting agrarian reform and redistribution of oil revenue, he’s militantly opposed by literally everyone else in the country: landowners, corporations, labor unions, the media ? in other words, just about anyone with any power or influence. And the opposition doesn’t exactly play by Marquis of Queensbury rules either, attempting to oust Ch?vez in a military coup of their own in 2002 and more recently conducting a series of national strikes that have crippled the economy.

And throughout all this, the United States has been mostly concerned with a free flow of oil. So what else is new?

All of which is a windy lead-in to this: Ch?vez may not be mistaken for Thomas Jefferson anytime soon, but there’s another side to the story too. If you’re interested in reading about it, over at Cliopatria Hugo Schwyzer provides one counterpoint and then links to Greg Palast, who provides another. And for loads of other pro-Ch?vez commentary, ZNet’s Venezuela Watch is a reliable cheerleader.

And of course, for fair and knowledgable blog coverage of Latin America in general, Randy Paul’s Beautiful Horizons is always an excellent source.