Hugo Chavez, the portly, socialist dictator from Venezuela, died from cancer at the ripe old age of 58. My only lament is that I will probably never get to piss on his grave.
His rule was fairly typical for a Leftist regime: assaults on free speech and the free press, diminished civil liberties, picking and choosing winners and losers in the private sector, strong ties to the military, etc. etc. From the New York Times:
At the same time, he was determined to hold onto and enhance his power. He grew obsessed with changing Venezuela’s laws and regulations to ensure that he could be re-elected indefinitely and become, indeed, a caudillo, able to rule by decree at times. He stacked his government with generals, colonels and majors, drawing inspiration from the leftist military officers who ruled Peru and Panama in the 1970s.
He began describing his critics as “golpistas,” or putschists, while recasting his own failed 1992 coup as a patriotic uprising. He purged opponents from the national oil company, expropriated the land of others and imprisoned retired military officials who had dared to stand against him. The country’s political debate became increasingly poisonous, and it took its toll on the country.
Private investors, unhinged over Mr. Chávez’s nationalizations and expropriation threats, halted projects. Hundreds of thousands of scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs and others in the middle class left Venezuela, even as large numbers of immigrants from Haiti, China and Lebanon put down stakes here.
The homicide rate soared under his rule, turning Caracas into one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Armed gangs lorded over prisons, as they did in previous governments, challenging the state’s authority. Simple tasks, like transferring the title of a car, remained nightmarish odysseys eased only by paying bribes to churlish bureaucrats.
Other branches of government often bent to his will. He fired about 19,000 employees of Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company, in response to a strike in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he stripped the Supreme Court of its autonomy. In legislative elections in 2010, his supporters preserved a majority in the National Assembly by gerrymandering.
All the while, Mr. Chávez rewrote the rule book on using the media to enhance his power. With “Aló Presidente” (“Hello, President”), his Sunday television program, he would speak to viewers in his booming voice for hours on end. His government ordered privately controlled television stations to broadcast his speeches.
Again, nothing too surprising here. This is what socialism will bring your society, every single time. It’s a conversation that doesn’t happen enough around the world.
What I find most surprising about his death is not that so few on the Left are willing to condemn him for his brutality (Leftists are – by and large – authoritarians who believe that the ends justify the means), but that so many Leftists really believed Chavez’s fascism represented a threat to US interests in the region.
Nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, American policy in the region has changed markedly since the end of the Cold War. American interests in the region have largely faded into obscurity, even when it comes to the drug war (which should end tomorrow). Afghanistan, Mexico and West Africa and the Caribbean are the new fronts in the war on drugs, and overthrowing democratically-elected governments to prevent communism was sooooo 1980s. Nowadays Washington sees democratically-elected socialists coming to power as good for democracy, so long as the fascists don’t try to rewrite the rules to fit their fancies and eliminate democracy (like they’ve done in Honduras, Venezuela and, to a lesser extent, Argentina).
Chavez was nothing to Washington. Not even a pain in the ass. That uninformed Leftists continue to lie to themselves, and the like-minded tools they hang out with, should not surprise me, but alas…
Latin America has thrived since Washington has taken a softer, more respectable approach to the region. States that come under socialist influence – like Venezuela and Cuba – become pariahs on their own. Most of this has to do with the fact that militaries are involved in one way or another. Socialism has never come to power democratically.
I’m not too fond of memes, but here is one that often pops into my head when I read a Leftist’s defense of some dictator or other in some part of the world: