As was becoming clearly inevitable, Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer today. Chavez was an interesting character, and here is probably the best of the stories the American people are ever going to be told about him:
"Chavez easily won a new six-year term at an election in
October and his death will devastate millions of supporters who
adored his charismatic style, anti-U.S. rhetoric and
oil-financed policies that brought subsidized food and free
health clinics to long-neglected slums.
Detractors, however, saw his one-man style, gleeful
nationalizations and often harsh treatment of opponents as
traits of an egotistical dictator whose misplaced statist
economics wasted a historic bonanza of oil revenues."
It is not, of course, wasting a historic bonanza of oil revenues for a couple of thousand people who go around calling themselves princes and kings to spend the money on fifty million dollar yachts and hundred million dollar houses in Cap Ferrat. No, nor is it wasting a historic bonanza of oil revenues to allow a few parasitic people to get so rich that they can buy control of our entire government. It is a waste, however, when the money is spent on food and free clinics for the poor.
Chavez had been the head of Venezuela for fourteen years, and was still wildly popular, recently being reelected by a landslide vote. Compare that to the guy who was "elected" to lead our country about the time Chavez became President of Venezuela, and who, incidentally, used our country's power to try to manipulate Venezuela's elections to end Chavez' career. All of this, of course, because Chavez was determined to spend some of his country's wealth on the people of Venezuela, rather than just letting oil companies take it all.
It will be interesting, in the next few days, to see the orgy of hatred that people in our country will direct toward Chavez, as a result of this sin. Nothing could be worse, in Venezuela or here in the United States, than to expect the government to work for anyone but the very rich.
Update: Here's a quote from an Associated Press obituary of Chavez, to reinforce my point:
"Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including
state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health
clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared
with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in
glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building
in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in
The percent of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day fell in three years during Chavez' presidency from 35% to 13%. That, however, is meager indeed compared to building the world's tallest building and branches of two museums, according to our press corps, which is, of course, far more likely to care about a museum than they are about people living on $2 a day. Those are the values that are crammed down Americans' throats 24 hours a day. Is it any wonder that so many of them give in to the hatred and greed that are all the Republican party has to offer?
Thanks to Atrios and Lawyers, Guns and Money for leading me to this little tidbit.