Hugo Chavez's Disastrous Legacy
Can Venezuela be saved?
“A phony revolution may nonetheless be a durable one. If the Venezuelans who go to the polls give Chávez what he wants, they are likely to discover a paradox: They can bring about dictatorship through democracy, but not the reverse.”
Steve Chapman, November 2007
It appears that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez will soon slip the mortal coil. Latin America’s history is replete with dictators who promise hope and change and reform, get elected and systematically abuse their power. Peron of Argentina, Pinochet of Chile, Stroessner of Paraguay, Gabriel Garcia Moreno of Ecuador, and Anastasio Somoza Garcia of Nicaragua were corrupt, authoritarian, and brutal with dissidents but their ambitions were contained within their borders.
Fidel Castro is an exception whose armies were proxies for his Soviet sponsors as far afield as Africa and who provoked one of the major confrontations of the Cold War in 1962 by conspiring with the Soviets to place nuclear missiles ninety miles from our shores.
Hugo Chavez avers that his role models are Fidel Castro and his terrorist henchman Che Guevara and views himself as a “socialist revolutionary.” In 2009 he declared himself the leader of “The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas,” whose other charter members are Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa. As for capitalism, he can be quite blunt: In 2005 he stated on his weekly radio show: “I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell.”
Venezuela and Ecuador control huge oil reserves and are on again/off again the only non-Muslem members of OPEC and enthusiastic proponents of energy blackmail and price manipulations. The clown Evo Morales loves hawking cocaine and boasting that Che Guevara the hero of the Bolivarian stooges died in Bolivia. He could be dismissed were it not for the fact that Bolivia has the world’s largest lithium and tin deposits. All three enjoy goading America with effusive praise for Iran’s mullahs, the Kims of North Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and assorted terrorist clones of Al Qaeda.
In spite of an abundance of vital energy resources, Chavez will leave a devastated economy plagued by shortages of all staples including food, a state-controlled media, a judiciary stacked with his cronies, a total absence of civil liberties, and one of the highest violent crime rates in the hemisphere. Venezuela’s citizens, who vested so much hope in the change that he promised, are in a living hell where homes and property have been expropriated and “redistributions” have reduced productivity and incentive. A bottle of water costs more than a gallon of gasoline, but cars are run-down hulks. Dissidence and any parody of his government are punishable by jail.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have assiduously avoided harsh criticism of Chavez. In 2009 both endorsed Chavez’s support for the deposed Honduran dictator Zelaya, ousted by the citizens for his abuse of power and efforts to reverse civil rights and the constitution. Although Chavez did voice support for Obama during the recent election, he has vented his anti-American spleen by mocking Hillary Clinton as a “blonde Condoleeza Rice” who thinks she “owns South America.” Furthermore, he has praised Wikileaks and Julian Assange for their “bravery” in confronting the United States, “a failed state.” He continually praises Ahmadinejad who has made several visits to Venezuela, staunchly defended Muammar Gaddafi and as late as October 12, 2012 he extolled the praises of Bashar Assad and accused the US of fomenting unrest in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.: “This is a crisis that has been planned and provoked … Syria is a sovereign nation. This crisis has a single cause: the world has entered into a new era of imperialism. It’s madness. The US government has been among the most irresponsible. I hope Obama rethinks this.”
Notwithstanding his outrageous abuse and oppression, he maintains a cult in the West. In a list compiled by the magazine New Statesman in 2006, he was voted eleventh in the list of “Heroes of our time” and in 2006 he was _Time Magazine’s _“Man of the Year.”
Although he is reviled by much of the civilized world, he has a large coterie of Hollywood celebrity fans: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Courtney Love, Kevin Spacey, Harry Belafonte and the “esteemed historian” Oliver Stone. This is pretty much the same crowd that idolizes Che Guevara.
Who is Hugo Chavez?
Hugo Rafael Chavez was born in 1954 in a town named Sabaneta to Hugo and Elena Frias, schoolteachers. His father was black of African descent and his mother white of Spanish descent. At an early age he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother Rosa Chavez, who ushered him through his elementary education.
After completing high school he enrolled in the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences, graduated with a degree in Arts and Science and the rather unimpressive rank of sub-lieutenant. After a brief period in Caracas University he returned to the active military where he served for 17 years with many posts and staff positions including teaching at the Academy of Military Sciences. His academic records and transcripts, including enrollment forms from university, are unavailable – lost, it seems.
He was a fairly gifted athlete who excelled in baseball, but was more well known for long speeches denouncing endemic fraud and corruption in government. He established a leftist, quasi-Marxist, crackpot Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement known as MBR.
In 1992 Chavez and his revolutionary cohorts, planned a military coup d’etat to oust then-President Carlos Perez, admittedly a thief and tyrant. It was a tactical failure which resulted in his arrest and jail sentence of two years.
In 1994 he was officially pardoned and emerged from jail defiant and determined to resume his political ambitions. He named his party the “Fifth Republic Movement” and four years later, after years on the stump and on soapboxes, he began the quest for national election.
The voters’ distrust of the government made his promises of reform, fundamental change, a renewed economy and an end to corruption, tyranny and bribery appealing to a desperate population.
Although he was far behind in the polls in early 1998, by December of that year he won 56% of the vote and became Venezuela’s President. While there were some credible accusations of voter intimidation and fraud, no recount took place. A widely hailed assembly drafted a constitution which stipulated term limits, a right to recall legislators, including the president, who were guilty of malfeasance with a petition from at least 20% of the population, established a merit based judiciary, and a group of “public defenders” to monitor government abuses.
Within half a year he dismissed all judges and public defenders and replaced them with his cronies. Term limits and all restraints, as well as the right to petition, were abolished. He embarked on a system of redistribution which implemented absolute government control on communications, media, industry, energy, utilities, and construction materials.
In 2002 an attempted coup against him was put down within 48 hours and in 2004 a petition against him signed by millions of citizens was dismissed by his highest court.
His “Bolivarian Circles,” a group of community organizers, routinely extort taxes and bribes for spurious neighborhood projects, mass mobilization of voters, and so-called “basic projects” which include spying on citizens.
In 2006 Jimmy Carter certified his re-election in spite of major irregularities, fraud, coercion, and intimidation which targeted all dissidents, particularly the “Tascon List” of all those who had petitioned for his ouster in 2004.
To keep up his love affair with Iran, Chavez indulges in hysterical anti-Israel rants which stop just short of calling for genocide. To prove his fealty to the Mullahs, he torments the Jewish community with vandalism, threats and vicious attacks. Ahmadinejad calls his pal “a champion and leader in the international struggle against imperialism.”
In October 2012 his campaign manifesto, as printed in campaign flyers, had not changed very much and listed his “five great historic objectives”:
One: “Defend, expand and consolidate national independence.”
Two: “Continue building Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century as an alternative to destructive and savage capitalism.”
Three: “Make Venezuela an economic, social and political power within the growing power of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Four: “Develop a new international geopolitics forming a multicentric and pluripolar world to achieve equilibrium in the universe and guarantee planetary peace.”
Five: “Preserve life on the planet and save the human species.”
He won and it is not likely he will make it to his inauguration.
Who will replace him and can Venezuela be saved? It’s anyone’s guess. Only one thing is sure. The leftist media will extol him and maybe his Hollywood pals will make a movie “The Bolivarian Diaries.”
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.