Hugo Chavez has died. The death of the Venezuelan president wasn’t a surprise – the expected event resulted from a disease, which even the “miraculous” Cuban health care couldn’t cure.
Technically, he wasn’t a dictator. Despite his original coup attempt in 1992, which failed, he came to power in an election and kept his position the same way. But the same could be said about most of his friends – Ahmadinejad, Assad, the Castro Brothers – they all got elected, but by creating situations where no other choice was possible.
The masses that elected him are not blameless either. In South America, where law is mocked, corruption is rampant at all levels, and people blame others for their misfortunes, people like Chavez thrive. All that they need to do is give away something to the masses and keep the anger against a real or imaginary enemy alive.
The result is a nauseous vicious circle, which brings on the scene a national saviour, who is romanticized until he fails to satisfy the crowds. He falls from grace and another one takes his place. Peron, Allende, Ortega, Duvalier, Lula, Morales – they all have gone through that cycle. Sometimes, if the dictator is clever enough to change the state apparatus to suit his own interest, he can get entrenched for decades no matter how angry his subjects get. That’s the secret of Castro’s longevity.
The tragedy of our times is that the intellectual laziness has infected even the West. That cult of the powerful social engineer, capable of solving all problems, explains the lamentations of the Western progressives over Chavez’s death.
Chavez was lucky to die on time, before the consequences of his disastrous economic policies kicked in. Otherwise, he would’ve been forced by the circumstances to turn into a classical type of dictator in order suppress the unrest.
The Venezuelan author Juan Cristobal Nagel took a sober look at the “Comandante Hugo” legacy, which goes beyond the hysteria of praise:
During his time in power, he did a lot, most of it really bad. He threw people in jail just because he wanted to. Bad people started killing, stealing, and kidnapping other people, and he did nothing to stop them. He took away stuff that did not belong to him – farms, buildings, companies. He said really mean things about people he didn’t like, or simply disagreed with him. He lied to the country all the time – about the amount of money we had, about the things he had done, and finally, about the disease that ultimately killed him. Natalia, one time you asked me why I didn’t like Chávez, and I didn’t give you a very good answer. Now I can answer using a term you can understand: because he was a bully.
He did some good stuff too – he gave away money to poor people, and he made them feel like they counted for the first time. But for me, the bad severely outweighed the good.
I spent a lot of his time documenting those things with a bunch of my friends on the pages of this blog. I hope you will get to read it sometime. Maybe you will get to leaf through our book. But more important than understanding what Chávez did, is to understand why he did them, why he was allowed to do them, and why – as a nation – we decided to embark on this journey.
The main reason is poverty. Venezuelans like to think of ourselves as filthy rich, and in some degrees we are. The natural resources God put on our tiny sliver of the planet can truly be counted as a blessing…
Read the rest here.
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