As noted here earlier today by Luca Gattoni-Celli, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is no more. He died today after a two year battle with cancer. He was 58.
Those who are familiar with my writing will be aware of my habit of writing obituaries. My entries are titled with their name accompanied by the abbreviation R.I.P. I do so to honor public figures who have contributed to humanity be it through public service, sport, music or some other endeavour.
However, in Mr. Chavez’s case, I have omitted said abbrevation. The reason I cannot bring myself to do so is because I do not believe Chavez contributed to humanity.
Now one can make the argument that if you have nothing nice to say, it is best not to say anything at all. In most instances, this would be the appropriate response. However, Chavez’s passing must be noted because despite his buffoonish disposition he did make Venezuela not only the most powerful nation in Latin America (outside of Brazil) he made it an influential player on the world stage.
Of course, much of this international prestige came through his invective towards former President George W. Bush. Chavez’s anti-Bush rants (i.e. comparing him to the devil, smelling of sulphur) endeared to American leftists like Sean Penn who is no doubt crying a river at this hour. Indeed, Penn said, “Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have.”
Penn and other Chavez supporters would no doubt point out that he won four elections. However, the fact that these same people put more faith in the legitimacy of Chavez’s elections while questioning the legitimacy of Bush’s elections in 2000 and 2004 speaks volumes. Given that Chavez spent his tenure shutting down the opposition press, it should come as no surprise that Freedom House doesn’t consider the press to be a free one. Reporters Without Borders doesn’t think much of press freedom in Chavez’s Venezuela either.
Given Chavez’s control of the media in Venezuela it may be years before we truly know the extent of his cruelty.
Despite Venezuela’s vast oil wealth, it remains a poor country whose currency was devalued just last month and crime is rampant. How bad cannot be quantified because Chavez saw fit to stop publishing crime statistics in 2004.
Of course, Chavez knew full well that Venezuela is an economic basket case and a dangerous place to live. Who to blame given that Bush hasn’t been in the White House for more than four years? Why the Jews of course. Aside from breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel while forging strong bonds with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Chavez has spared no efforts to stir up animosity against Venezuelan Jews.
Amongst other things there was the 2004 raid on Collegio Hebraica, the country’s largest private Jewish school. In 2008, Chavez called his future presidential opponent Henrique Capriles part of the the “Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie” while his supporters called Capriles a Jew even though he is a devout Catholic. Just last year, demonstrators hurled fireworks into a Caracas synagogue following skirmishes in the Gaza Strip. Sorry folks but demonstrations in Venezuela simply didn’t happen without Chavez’s blessing. That Sean Penn or anyone else would praise Chavez knowing of his anti-Semitism is beyond contempt.
Chavez chose Nicolas Maduro as his successor and clearly the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. He is asserting that Chavez was probably poisoned.
An election is to be held within the next 30 days. It will be a showdown between Maduro and Capriles. At 40, Capriles is both youthful and rational. If Capriles wins I wonder if Maduro will permit a peaceful transfer of power. If they do not then Hugo Chavez’s legacy will sadly be alive and well.