The Chavez Legacy

Since it seems Hugo Chavez is about to die, it’s worth looking at his legacy a bit. Of course, it’s almost impossible to do so in a measured way. His die-hard supporters (relatively few as they may be in the United States) talk of him in reverent tones, as the sole man to stand up to American imperialism in the last 20 years. Those North Americans invested enough in Latin American politics to hate Chavez think he’s the antichrist and supported the coup attempt against him.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Chavez not exactly an ideal guy for the left to be following. I’ve always thought his version of socialism was too much bombast and not enough good governance. Sticking your thumb in the United States’ eye may have value, but not as much as ensuring good trash pickup for poor people. Anyway, Mark Weisbrot has a pretty good overview, arguing that Chavez may have been able to be Chavez because of oil money (and outright US hostility that only strengthened his hand at home), but at least it went to improving the lives of the Venezuelan people and not into offshore bank accounts.

Like Chavez or not, but don’t deny that life for the average Venezuelan is almost certainly better than when he took power. And even if you think that’s entirely because of high oil prices, remember that corrupt leaders in the past siphoned the money into their own pockets and that Chavez’s enemies want an austerity program in the country that would fall entirely on the backs of the poor. Or for a current example of this, see Nigeria.

On the other hand, Weisbrot co-wrote Oliver Stone’s horrible, fawning, and profoundly shallow documentary on Chavez. Not sure how you live that one down.

126 comments on this post.
  1. Superking:

    Like Chavez or not, but don’t deny that life for the average Venezuelan is almost certainly better than when he took power.

    The same could be said of Russia a few years after Putin took office in the early aughts. Chavez isn’t a leader anyone on the left should look to or admire.

  2. Eli Rabett:

    Chavez is an example of populist leaders drawn from the less European populations in Latin America, and indeed this may be a foreshadowing of the future in the US, although US versions are a hell of a lot smoother (Obama, Deval Patrick, Villaraigosa and of course Colin Powell)

  3. LeeEsq:

    I think that any mention of Chavez’s legacy needs to focus on how he waged war against the Jewish community of Venezeula. He pretty much used them as a scapegoat and drove thousands of them out of Venezuela. In the last Presidential election, he attacked is oponent, who has Jewish ancestry, for being a “rich, homosexual Jew.” He also had armed guards raid a Jewish day school because he thought it was holding arms that were going to be sent to Israel.

    These actions and other actions against the Venezuelan Jewish community are inexcusable. Chavez might have done much for the people of Venezuela but he invoked some rather nasty prejudices to do it.

    And bluntly, I don’t care whether or not the Venezuelan Jewish community was rich or their opinions about politics at all. The right to physical safety should not be linked to having the “proper” opinions.

  4. LeeEsq:

    I think that any mention of Chavez’s legacy needs to focus on how he waged war against the Jewish community of Venezeula. He pretty much used them as a scapegoat and drove thousands of them out of Venezuela. In the last Presidential election, he attacked is oponent, who has Jewish ancestry, for being a “rich, homosexual Jew.” He also had armed guards raid a Jewish day school because he thought it was holding arms that were going to be sent to Israel.

    These actions and other actions against the Venezuelan Jewish community are inexcusable. Chavez might have done much for the people of Venezuela but he invoked some rather nasty prejudices to do it.

    And bluntly, I don’t care whether or not the Venezuelan Jewish community was rich or their opinions about politics at all. The right to physical safety should not be linked to having the “proper” opinions.

  5. witless chum:

    Huh? I’m failing to see what that quad has in common with each other, much less Chavez.

  6. DocAmazing:

    Actually, no, the same could not be said of Russia. Not if you follow things like life expectancy and infant mortality. Putin did not rein in the oligarchs; things have improved slightly and slowly since Putin took office, but they’re still worse than they were pre-Yeltsin.

    You may not love Chavez, but put him in the context of rulers of Venezuela: the population at large has done better under him than any of his late-20th c. predecessors.

  7. DocAmazing:

    Or how Powell or Obama are “populist”.

  8. DocAmazing:

    The right to physical safety should not be linked to having the “proper” opinions.

    In the context of Venezuelan politics historically (and the politics of many parts of Latin America), this statement is grimly ironic.

  9. Walt:

    If you think about it, the simplest explanation is that the words make perfect sense, but you’ve suddenly developed aphasia.

  10. DrDick:

    Have to say that I generally agree with this statement. Chavez was clearly a deeply flawed character. Far too demagogic and of the “great leader” school for my taste, but he did stand up to the oligarchs, distributed the benefits of the country’s oil wealth far more equitably, and made life dramatically better for most Venezuelans.

  11. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    What do they have in common with each other? Unfortunately, the only thing I can see is that none of them are white.

  12. The Dark Avenger:

    Bingo! Are you sure it isn’t the other end of your body that is leaking?

  13. Major Kong:

    I wonder if he’d have been less openly anti-American if we hadn’t tried staging a coup against him.

  14. swearyanthony:

    If you merely go by the rule of “judge a man by his enemies”, Chavez has clearly done some stuff right.

  15. Chávez’s Legacy? « Americas South and North:

    [...] recent piece on what has been accomplished during Hugo Chávez’s governance, but Erik beat me to the punch: I don’t think there’s any doubt that Chavez not exactly an ideal guy for the left to be [...]

  16. LeeEsq:

    Its grimly ironic in the context of the political history of the world. All sorts of regimes have denied the right of physical safety and other rights to people who held the “wrong” opinions. Usually its done by rightists agianst anybody consider liberal or leftist. However, its not unknown among leftists to.

    My statement was aspirational. The right to physical safety, that right to face violence to your person because of your identity is one of the most important rights. I’m deeply against using physical intimdation as a way to correct opinion. I’m not a pacifist, there are times where violence is necessary.

    However, violence should not be used against people simply because of who they are. Negative action is necessary first. Its wrong to physically attack a homophobe because that person is a homophobe. However, if the homophobe puts theory into practice and assaults a homosexual than limited violence maybe used against them if necessary to bring them to justice. Without negative action, there is no reason to threaten the right of physical safety.

  17. Marek:

    Well, we could look at the left-wing Latin American leaders we didn’t try to depose as a control group.

    Ummm…

  18. LeeEsq:

    I really can’t agree with this statement. Chavez has done much to improve the life of most Venezeulans. But he invoked lots of ugly and evil thoughts to do so and this was unnecessary and evil. The last presidential campaign and all the Jew-hatred and stereotypes against Chavez’s opponent was unforgiveable in my opinion. I can’t really find anything admirable about Chavez at all. Social justice achieved through the most awful aspects of populist rhetoric is not social justice.

  19. UberMitch:

    but they’re still worse than they were pre-Yeltsin.

    But pre-Yeltsin was the godless commies that Reagan manfully stared down!

  20. edie:

    It’s all pretty subjective, but I would think his legacy would have to also need include the rising crime rate, the regional pissing contests Chavez seemed to get into partially for kicks, and the political system that is grinding to a halt without the presence of a single man. I certainly don’t feel strongly about the guy, but it’s pretty unclear that any of his improvements in the lives of the poor are sustainable in any way, especially if there’s a huge nasty political upheaval after his death.

  21. NonyNony:

    Obama for the definition of populist that includes “able to win popular elections”.

    Powell for the definition of populist that includes “is well liked by the folks in the DC Beltway, who all think he’d make one hell of a President if only the rubes would vote for him”.

    I personally am partial to the definition of populist that includes “two slices of pumpernickle bread, some nices slices of roast beef, a spread of horseradish and a slice of tomato and lettuce” myself. (Damn, now I don’t want to eat the lunch I brought today – I’m hungry for populist).

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

  22. Charlie Sweatpants:

    “Since it seems Hugo Chavez is about to die”

    Sure, it seems that way, and yet there’s Fidel still hanging around after all these years. Never underestimate Cuban medical treatment.

  23. Njorl:

    Hitler and Stalin were enemies.

  24. Left_Wing_Fox:

    Honestly, I think we fall prey to binary thinking when we phrase the question of “Is Chavez an example worth following?” A better question is “Which of his policies are best emulated, and which of his policies are best avoided?”

    Not all the policies he proposed are necessarily linked. His bombast and scapegoating aren’t necessarily linked to the use of oil money for economic justice.

  25. Pathman:

    Also see article by Greg Palast here:
    http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13800-big-oil-big-ketchup-and-the-assassination-of-hugo-chavez

  26. cpinva:

    why does this sound so familiar to me?

    …..and that Chavez’s enemies want an austerity program in the country that would fall entirely on the backs of the poor.

    hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

    yeah, i don’t think any rational person is ever going to claim that chavez is/was perfect, as a “leftist” leader, who is? however, as leaders go, in latin/south america, he seems to be/have been far less corrupt(as far as i’m aware), than his predecessors, and the average venezuelan’s life has improved under his administration. clearly, he has/had enough real enemies, without needing to create more, but i suppose (a somewhat justified) paranoia will do that to you.

    it remains to be seen if his programs can survive, in his absence. for that matter, it remains to be seen if the nascent democracy in venezuela can survive, on his death. will it result in a peaceful, constitutional transfer of power, a civil war, or military coup?

  27. Eli Rabett:

    Hugo Chavez is still dead

  28. KadeKo:

    I’m amazed that Fidel Castro will likely outlive him. I posit that half of Chavez’ ink in the US was a result of our Beltway Inbreds (and right-wing nutjobs) needing some “brown menace” to hold up as a threat since Castro’s health started going downhill.

    Look at depictions of Castro, that old, feeble guy, in recent years, in political ads and anything not directly related to his illnesses. It’s like he disappeared after about 1980. All we see of him in the shitstorm press and “who to worry about” political ads are “Young Fidel”, the dark-haired healthy one.

    (It reminds me of the threat of “Young Elvis” being represented as what that new fangled rock and roll will do to our innocent young people, circa 1974, when “Fat Elvis” was alive and doing Vegas.)

  29. Digger:

    Stalin stopped Hitler, he clearly did something right.

  30. Kilks:

    Lula (Luis Inacio de Silva) did not seem to hate the US and AFAIK, we have not tried to overthrow him.

    though to be fair, I do not know that much about Brazil.

  31. Murc:

    Lula, I suppose.

  32. catclub:

    Classical music is thriving in Venzuela.

    Almost all the scholarship players in the USM orchestra have spanish sounding surnames. I am pretty sure they are from Venezuela.

    There is also the conductor of the LA symphony.

  33. creature:

    Still gotta love Hugo for his UN address, savaging Dubya as ‘the devil’ and that the smell of sulfur was still there. Chavez may not be Mr. Wonderful, but he has done a lot for the Venezuelan populace, overall. The ex-pat Venezuelans I knew were a lot like ex-pat Cubans- virulently anti-Communist, no matter what ‘Communist’ might be defined as. Weird parallel, nonetheless, but interesting.

  34. RedSquareBear:

    Oh, well, when you put it that way…

  35. Lee Hartmann:

    As someone with many friends and family in Venezuela (NOT oligarchs by any means), I think much of the adulation of Chavez on the left should be strongly tempered. It is true that he has shoveled out a lot of money to poor people, which is good in the near term. However, in the long term there will be problems because Chavez dumped all kinds of ill-prepared and incompetent political supporters into positions where technical ability and knowledge is important, like PdVSA, where a purge was carried out. As a result, infrastructure is failing, and this is especially important in the oil industry, and without the oil money the Chavez handouts will dwindle. The economy is also not in good shape and the difference between the official exchange rate and the black market rate is a factor of 4 which will have to be adjusted painfully at some point. The party is basically Chavez. So all of these things mean that there are serious questions as to how sustainable are the advances in getting more money to poor people in the long run, while undermining any technical expertise.

    Oh, and if you think the oligarchs are suffering, think again. They may not be stealing as much as they were able to in the past, but they’re doing ok; it’s just that other people are doing the stealing now.

  36. Richard:

    The classical music program in Venezuela preceded Chavez but, to his credit, he has kept it alive and flourishing.

  37. anon:

    I could swear I heard somewhere that one has to throw one’s political support based on comparing the guy to the available alternative, not to the hypothetical ideal sovereign.

    Or that one ought to cut a guy some slack maneuvering to do the best in the face of a rabid, well-funded opposition of evil oligarchs that’s bent on his personal destruction.

  38. joe from Lowell:

    Actually, no, the same could not be said of Russia. Not if you follow things like life expectancy and infant mortality.

    You’re thinking of the 1990s, the Yeltsin era, during which infant mortality rose.

    Infant mortality has fallen consistently throughout the Putin years.

  39. wjts:

    Luiz Inácio da Silva? (For certain values of left-wing, granted.)

  40. joe from Lowell:

    Evo Morales.

    Oscar Arias Sanchez.

  41. joe from Lowell:

    I’m sorry, are we discussing whether to vote for Hugo Chavez in an election?

    Because I totally missed that.

  42. J. Otto Pohl:

    Surely Venezuela is not nearly as successful a model in improving things like literacy, education, and standards of living for the poor as Cuba. Not to mention the fact that Cuba lacked Venezuela’s oil money. Although an authoritarian police state Cuba did manage to achieve a lot of the social and economic improvements that had been accomplished in the USSR without the use of mass terror. They also had considerably more freedom in artistic and cultural expression than in the USSR. I am not a fan of Castro’s regime, but to give the Devil his due, Cuba managed to accomplish a lot of the same improvements in people’s material conditions without the massive violence that accompanied such developments in the USSR. It thus seems in a very real sense in terms of improving economic and social aspects of people’s lives and avoiding the terror that marked the reigns of Stalin and Mao that Cuba might be the most successful socialist state.

  43. The Nation and People of Sweden:

    Cuba might be the most successful socialist state.

    Well fuck us like walruses.

  44. Anon21:

    Why does it even seem that way? It sounds like Chavez had two serious operations, but I haven’t seen any reports that he’s at death’s door.

  45. mds:

    However, in the long term there will be problems because Chavez dumped all kinds of ill-prepared and incompetent political supporters into positions where technical ability and knowledge is important

    Hopefully, if the opposition can get their act together and get back into power, they can undo some of this and return to the prior crony-free technocratic status quo.

  46. The Social-Democratic tradition:

    No, fuck you.

  47. Fake Irishman:

    Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico 1934-1940. He was a land reformer and nationalized the oil companies.

  48. Timb:

    You haven’t heard the words “serious respiratory infection” with regard t o him….after the last surgery. Tis a poor sign forhim

  49. DrDick:

    AKA socialist-lite.

  50. John:

    I’m not sure how exactly you’d characterize the pre-Chavez regime in Venezuela, but it involved (relatively) free elections, transfers of powers among various (elitist, not particularly representative) parties, and a (relatively) free press. It had lots of problems in terms of being run by and for the elites, but I don’t think it makes any sense to refer to Chavez’s Venezuela as a “nascent democracy.”

    Chavez has likely brought many positive changes to the country, but I don’t think creating a nascent democracy is one of them.

  51. John:

    Cuba may have lacked Venezuela’s oil money, but it was given a ton of money by the USSR during the Cold War.

  52. John:

    Depends what you mean by socialism. One man’s “socialism” is another man’s “reformist capitalism.” Certainly, your claim to be a “socialist state” has to be rather qualified when your head of state is a king.

  53. JTR:

    I was hoping for some good red-baiting, but I see that you’ve yet again disappointed me Erik. You wouldn’t be hiding something on that front, would you?

  54. PSP:

    If you swapped Leninist for Socialist, you would have a more supportable conclusion.

  55. Richard:

    It bought the Cuban sugar crop at prices far in excess of what sugar was selling for on the international market.

  56. John:

    José Mujica, Rafael Correa?

  57. J. Otto Pohl:

    True, but the Soviet Union gave a lot of aid to China, North Vietnam, and Ethiopia too and in all of them there was mass terror used in the collectivization of agriculture followed by horrible famines. This did not happen in Cuba. So there was more going on than just transfer payments. After all the US and Europe have provided a lot foreign aid to regimes that have simply stolen the money rather than improve any social infrastructure.

  58. Richard:

    There have been many such reports. There have been no pictures of him for the last few months, no details about the surgery (its never been told what type of cancer he is suffering from), it was stated by the Venezuelan government that he has suffered “setbacks” and has a “serious respiratory infection” and he couldn’t attend his inauguration today (or even have it done by phone or teleconference). There have been no claims, unlike the previous surgeries and unlike what Chavez said during the campaign, that he is free of cancer. The man is, by any rational assessment, very close to death.

  59. Liz II:

    your claim to be a “socialist state” has to be rather qualified when your head of state is a king

    Quite right–you need a Queen.

  60. Dilan Esper:

    By the way, one thing to bear in mind is Chavez is a lot less socialist than everyone seems to think. I went to Caracas a couple of years ago. Other than slogans posted in the airport lobby, the country is completely capitalist. It isn’t at all like Cuba, full of state run enterprises.

    Chavez was a populist demagogue (bad), an irresponsible steward of oil wealth (bad), and a redistributionist (very, very good in a country that has a big-time resource curse).

  61. Hogan:

    If you ain’t got gulags, you ain’t shit.

  62. xxy:

    Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are examples of mestizos who used populism to challenge an entrenched conservative-leaning and European-blooded system that discriminated against people with indigenous blood. There was a significant racial component in addition to the economic component of their populism.

    Obama, Patrick, Villaraigosa, and Powell are people who adopted the system. Except for Powell they had to work to some degree to convince voters that their politics were not racially motivated, though that hasn’t stopped FOX News from trying. I don’t know if it is their personal politics, the fact that lighter-skinned Europeans still hold a lot of voting power, or a culture that shuns public discussion of race relations by politicians that made them that way. Even if they were populists they wouldn’t be “US Versions”, more like exercises in contrasting minority politics.

    I don’t know how Powell got in there.

  63. RedSquareBear:

    I think at least you would need to announce yourself as an explicitly socialist state. To my knowledge, despite the long-term success of the Social Democratic parties, Sweden hasn’t done this. I would assume that Cuba has.

    Sweden may have had a more successful implementation of center-left and social democratic policies leading to a higher standard of living than countries that have not pursued these policies, but I don’t think it’s strictly correct to call Sweden a socialist state. I think it is correct to call Cuba the most successful socialist state, under that definition. Cuba certainly is the most successfully developed socialist state, if you correct for the various crimes of the Maoist and Stalinist.

  64. xxy:

    I dunno, Sweden sounds closer to “the means of production in the hands of the workers” than when your country is an authoritarian police state where the nation’s wealth and politics are controlled by a few elites.

  65. RedSquareBear:

    But surely the test of a leader in a country with a resource curse would be how well it moves the country away from that resource curse. How successful has Chavez been at this?

    (That’s a serious question, by the way. I’ve never liked Chavez or his tiresome histrionics so I don’t know much about what he’s done beyond fairly broad neutral-to-negative strokes, maybe there’s a lot of development that I’m not aware of.)

  66. LeeEsq:

    From what I’ve read, not that all succesful. Chavez’s programs are based on revenue from Venezeula’s oil resources.

  67. DrDick:

    Yeah, my reaction to this was “and this differs from the pre-Chavez” regime exactly how?”

  68. Kate M.:

    Erik,
    You might want to mention Chavez’s recent consturction of a mausoleum for Independence Leader Simon Bolivar–
    I think Chavez also plans on being buried there….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/world/americas/simon-bolivar-has-a-colossal-new-resting-place-in-venezuela.html?pagewanted=all

    “The 17-story-tall white-tiled mausoleum being built to hold the remains of the national hero Simón Bolívar looks to many people here like the world’s biggest skateboard ramp. To others, it evokes a parking garage, a shopping mall, a bridal veil, a sailing ship or a drive-in movie screen. Some simply call it an outrage.”

  69. cpinva:

    you forgot the swiss cheese.

  70. Kate M.:

    *construction*

  71. cpinva:

    not a democracy:

    but it involved (relatively) free elections, transfers of powers among various (elitist, not particularly representative) parties, and a (relatively) free press.

    perhaps the term you’re thinking of would be oligarchy.

  72. joe from Lowell:

    a bold modernist wedge in stark contrast to the traditional pastel-color church with steeple that sits directly in front of it.

    Chavez is so committed to redistribution than he’s giving his people a little bit of Brasilia.

  73. J. Otto Pohl:

    All existing socialist states were Leninist. There is not really any other way to get such a regime and economy into power. No democratically elected state has ever imposed a socialist economy.

  74. Jameson Quinn:

    Is the radicalization of Venezuelan politics Chavez’s fault? He certainly has his shale of the blame, but look how the Lat-Am right (Reich?) wing tried to build to a coup against even Colom in Guatemala, the most watered-down populist you can imagine, and it’s hard not to put some blame on the other side, too.

  75. LeeEsq:

    Isn’t Brasilia considered one of the most unlivable by design places in the world?

  76. drkrick:

    It should be mentioned, and it’s obviously a mark against him. I’m not sure why every mention of his legacy needs to focus on it.

  77. drkrick:

    He was pretty much as “Anti-American” before 2002 as after. Unless he was clairvoyant, I don’t think the experience moved him much. He knew where he stood with the Americans after his own coup attempt in the ’80′s.

  78. RedSquareBear:

    I am amazed at how totally scrubbed of criticism the Wiki articles on Brasilia are. Wow, just, wow.

  79. wengler:

    Because of the need to paint him as a Latin American Hitler?

  80. drkrick:

    Making the political support of Americans irrelevant in Venezuelan politics is part of the point. But when trying to evaluate his record and his legacy on some sort of sliding scale based on available alternatives probably makes sense, too.

  81. wengler:

    Correa doesn’t count because the US tried to coup him not too long ago.

  82. Jameson Quinn:

    Not living in Cuba, I have to respect that “Cuban doctors” is a thing. Not as much as “Filipino nurses” but still worth much respect. Anything like that for Venezuela? I suspect not.

  83. joe from Lowell:

    Reich, for those who don’t recognize the name.

  84. wengler:

    Chavez also purged the military and bought Russian arms so Venezuela’s US-created and backed military wouldn’t overthrow him. These were necessary changes in order to ensure continuity of government. Of course the alternative to having political loyalists ‘learn on the job’ would be to stick political officers with a gun there to shoot the current staff if they don’t follow orders. But Chavez didn’t do that because he wasn’t an authoritarian dictator, no matter how much US media tries to convince me.

  85. wengler:

    It’s simple. Cuba didn’t gear its economy for war. That is what makes a successful socialist state or any other state for that matter.

  86. wengler:

    The CIA’s favorite newspaper sure has a stick up their ass about Chavez.

  87. wengler:

    As an American, we are taught not to look for the welfare of the great multitude, and instead ask ourselves, what did Hugo Chavez do for the most ‘successful’ of Venezuela? The answer is not much.

    A place where the ultra-rich are despised instead of worshiped is not one that Americans should ever support.

  88. joe from Lowell:

    Isn’t Brasilia considered one of the most unlivable by design places in the world?

    Widely. When I was in city planning school, we studied it as a example of what not to do.

    It is frequently contrasted with Cirutiba.

  89. DocAmazing:

    Yeah. Well, generations of pre-Chavez Venezuealan leftists are real impressed with the aspiration.

  90. wengler:

    Chavez was a good leader for Latin America. He survived a coup, pummeled his opposition through their own stupidity rather than shooting them, made the most of the opposition’s silly election boycott by maximizing his power through a decree law(something Americans hate, hate, hate until Republicans decide that wrecking the world economy to make Obama look bad is a worthwhile thing to do), and through actions large and small made Bush and Obama a little more accountable. The most important thing he did was take the heat off of more important changes made by people like Lula and the almost unthinkable election of Morales in Bolivia.

    I would assume that the generic American liberal’s preferred Latin American leader would’ve perished in a plane crash long ago.

  91. commie atheist:

    The Mittster did try to make current Castro into a liability for Obama in the election, though.

  92. agorabum:

    In addition to the deterioration of public safety, there was the support for FARC and meeddling in the Colombian civil war (on the wrong side).
    And there has been the general mismanagement of the state enterprises, and typical petro-state use of oil profits as cash subsidies at the expense of real economic development, sustainable growth, and environmental stewardship.
    Plus the concentration of media power in the hands of the state.

    More interesting question is if the system he constructed will warp in on itself and worsen, or rebound to a less abusive shape, so that there is something positive to build on. The dreams of Caudillos seldom live on after they pass…

  93. Erik Loomis:

    Fidel is going to outlive us all.

  94. Marek:

    Elitist!

  95. Anonymous:

    CIA got him after all. Damn.

  96. atn:

    Because people with Spanish surnames must be Venezuelan citizens? Face, please meet Mr. Palm.

  97. atn:

    I like how everyone is arguing over the minutia of Chavez’s policies, but overlooking the main reason he belongs in the same boat as Putin and Berlusconi: Indefinite one-man rule–of a entire country–is not a good thing. It is NEVER a good thing, and any man or woman who possesses the character flaw of believing that they should rule for life is a dangerous human being not fit for most normal social interactions, forget decades of leadership.

    Forget how much you admire (or loathe) his positions on policies/social issues X, Y, and Z.

    I could gripe forever about politics in America, but at least we have presidential term limits. Sic semper tyrannis.

  98. Sebastian H:

    This didn’t happen in Cuba because instead of killing the opposition as in China, north Vietnam etc, he could let them flee to Miami.

  99. jefft452:

    “…any man or woman who possesses the character flaw of believing that they should rule for life…”
    Chavez is not president for life. He has to get re-elected for every term

    “…but at least we have presidential term limits…”
    So if the majority of your neighbors want to vote for Joe Smith, your minority opinion that Joe Smith has been in office too long should over rule their wishes?

    “Sic semper tyrannis.”
    Look in a mirror

  100. LeeEsq:

    There are plenty of reasons to not like Chavez. Here are two stories on one of them:

    http://www.jns.org/latest-articles/2013/1/4/chavez-and-the-jews-a-sorry-tale.html

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/88901/the-dispossessed

  101. Everythings Jake:

    Well firstly, if we’re gonna talk about shallow, Erik’s catty comment reveals a profound lack of even basic understanding about the difference between a script and an edited film (Marc co-wrote with Tariq Ali, who is rarely less than measured and fully-informed in his approach, even when it is anger at injustice thatdrives him).

    Also, even a non-Hollywood resident could dig up a salient fact or two about working with Stone and who wins every argument you didn’t actually enter into with the man, who has always failed or suceeded spectacularly on the side of grand schmalz, but is in any event the only one who might have gotten that film made and paid attention. And most of Weisbrot’s columns are hardly Odes to Chavez so much as they are deconstructions of the propaganda that passes as all that’s fit to print or air in what used to be something of an actual news hour.

    But y’know, it’s left of this blog, so Stone = Weisbrot = Nader = Chavez, and with the rare exception of calling for an end to Wayne La Pierre, it wouldn’t be LGM if it wasn’t turning left and mowing down anyone it finds there.

  102. LeeEsq:

    You know what, fuck you. What Chavez did to Venezuelan’s Jewish community was just wrong and gigantic abuse. He had no reason to do it. The Jewish community of Venezuela was no threat to him or his programs for wealth redistribution. They were a small community that kept to themselves and minded their own business. They weren’t even connected to the oil industry. Chavez targeted them because he’s a Jew-hating dick and had the power to do so. The Jews of Venezuela did not need to be a sacrifice for his programs. His actions against them were persecution plane and simple.

    I’m sick and tired of Jew-hatred being ignored or hand-waived by Leftists when it comes from the right source, anti-Semitism from the Revolutionary Left or people of color. Anti-Semitism from these places is just as evil as it is from Christian Whites on the Right.

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/88901/the-dispossessed

    http://hurryupharry.org/2012/02/15/chavez-campaign-attacks-straight-catholic-opponent-as-a-gay-jew/

    http://hurryupharry.org/2012/03/15/chavistas-step-up-antisemitic-attacks-on-capriles/

  103. DocAmazing:

    Yeah, that FDR, good thing he got shut down after his second term, huh?

  104. Woodrowfan:

    cool story bro…

  105. Speak Truth:

    Just before he did a whole lot wrong.

  106. Speak Truth:

    Chavez only distributed wealth in an effort to buy votes.

    Sound familiar?

  107. Speak Truth:

    If you ain’t got gulags, you ain’t shit.

    Very funny…

    Gotta admit….funny stuff!

  108. wengler:

    You already made that point above multiple times.

  109. wengler:

    I wish he was about to start his 21st term right now.

  110. PSP:

    Again, depends what you mean by socialism. “Leninist” answers that question.

  111. BorisBoris:

    Russia did not use the WHO standards for determining infant mortality until 1993. Much of that increase was the result of capturing the estimated 25% under count.

  112. Boyle:

    V. is white, he just has that brownish tinge

  113. Data Tutashkhia:

    Anyone who fights the super-rich instead of serving them can’t be all that bad. The rest is details. Viva Chavez, I say. And that goes for Putin too.

  114. IM:

    I seek counsel in art and voilá,

    all has been already answered:

    Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!
    Argentina has gone to town
    Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
    We’ve all gone crazy
    Mourning all day and mourning all night
    Falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right
    Oh what an exit! That’s how to go!

    But who is this Santa Evita?
    Why all this howling hysterical sorrow?
    What kind of goddess has lived among us?
    How will we ever get by without her?
    She had her moments–she had some style
    The best show in town was the crowd
    Outside the Casa Rosada crying, “Eva Peron”
    But that’s all gone now
    As soon as the smoke from the funeral clears
    We’re all going to see how she did nothing for years!

    You let down your people Evita
    You were supposed to have been immortal
    That’s all they wanted
    Not much to ask for
    But in the end you could not deliver

    Show business kept us all alive
    Since 17 October 1945
    But the star has gone, the glamour’s worn thin
    That’s a pretty bad state for a state to be in
    Instead of government we had a stage
    Instead of ideas a prima donna’s rage
    Instead of help we were given a crowd
    She didn’t say much but she said it loud

    Because to cite another great work, All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

    So was Chavez more Eva Peron II or Juan Peron II?

  115. Manju:

    So was Chavez more Eva Peron II or Juan Peron II?

    Eva Longoria. How else to explain Hollywood’s reaction?

  116. J. Otto Pohl:

    In large part. But, most of the opposition to collectivization in the USSR came from ordinary peasants. Not the type of people that would necessarily be able to flee if living in Cuba. There does not seem to have been the wide spread peasant led resistance to collectivization in Cuba that existed in the USSR, China, North Vietnam, and Ethiopia. So there is something else besides the former elite of Cuba fleeing to the US that differentiates Cuba from more “Stalinist” models of socialism.

  117. J. Otto Pohl:

    This is questionable. Cuba was certainly under some threat from the US and the Cuban government may have even played this threat up to justify increased militarization. There is also the fact that in the 1970s and 80s Cuba was fighting full scale wars in Angola and Ethiopia. They were responsible for beating back South Africa and Somalia respectively. Defeating South Africa in Angola was no small feat and it showed that Cuba punched way above its weight when it came to military affairs. Even with Soviet subsidies the costs of defending Cuba and fighting in Africa was significant. If nothing else it took a lot of young men out of the civilian economy.

  118. ajay:

    Defeating South Africa in Angola was no small feat and it showed that Cuba punched way above its weight when it came to military affairs.

    One of the few really obvious cases of “blood for oil” – there were 35,000 Cuban troops in Angola with the specific mission of protecting Chevron’s oil platforms from attack.

  119. ajay:

    …a musical that was written, interestingly, in order to make a military coup in Britain seem more acceptable to the British public.

  120. Manju:

    I’ve long been suspicious of Jethro Tull.

  121. Pestilence:

    +1

  122. Pestilence:

    flautists, what can you say?

  123. DrDick:

    You mean like the Kochs, Waltons, Coors, and Adelsons?

  124. sonamib:

    You mean Curitiba, surely.

  125. IM:

    All hail crown princess Victoria!

  126. Woodrowfan:

    well, he was “President for Life’ in a way.

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