The most recent round of Venezuela/ALBA bashing is full of lies, half-truths and is nothing more than pure propaganda. Whether it be FOX, the NY Times, or the Washington Post, all of these media outlets and many others are marching to the same orders - a smear campaign by the international elite against Venezuela/ALBA and, by extension, socialism in general.
Nevertheless, the facts are clear. From an article by professor Anthony DiMaggio:
[Hugo] Chávez's popularity, as American journalists begrudgingly admit, is based upon his willingness to put the needs of Venezuela's poor masses ahead of those of business elites. This does not mean that he's a saint or that political repression should not be a serious concern for those living throughout the hemisphere. No political leader deserves a blank check to consolidate political power. But what seems to escape U.S. leaders is that Venezuelan democracy assigns the task of holding leaders accountable to the people of Venezuela, rather than to "enlightened" U.S. elites.
Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution" is indeed wildly popular in amongst Venezuelans. He is succeeding in promoting a plethora of social welfare programs paid for by the country's oil export revenues. Chávez is spearheading efforts to promote gender equality, government sponsored health care, universal higher education, increased state pension funding, land redistribution, and an expansion of public housing, amongst other programs. Chávez's welfare revolution is significantly improving the lives of the citizenry. A 50 percent increase in social welfare spending from 1999-2005 (in the first 6 years of Chávez's presidency) was accompanied by decreases in infant mortality, an increase in school enrollment an increase in individual disposable income, and a decrease in poverty. From 1997-2005, the national poverty rate fell from 56 to 38 percent of the population. By 2005, an estimated 50 percent of the Venezuelan people enjoyed government health care, while the same number also enjoyed government food subsidies. The Bolivarian Revolution, one should remember, also took place under fairly stable economic growth, ranging from 6-18 percent of GDP a year from 2004-2008. This trend stands on its head the assumptions of U.S. reporters that socialist policies are a major obstacle to economic stability and prosperity.