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The Legacy of Hugo Chavez
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Two years ago, Hugo Chavez finally joined the Great People’s Labor Revolution in the sky, or deep under the ground, depending on your point of view.
We should all agree that our world is not the same without him. It is difficult to see how the jumble of socialists running most of Central and South America can find a more captivating leader for transnational leftism. The bipartisan establishment on Capitol Hill surely sings hymns of joy as one of the United States’s greatest foreign policy foes is no more. Antipoverty activists in slums and institutions of higher learning everywhere continually lionize Hugo in the same way that they have Che Guevara and Salvador Allende.
Chavez was the quintessential spokesman for not only militant socialism, but modern third world politics. He dressed in a brightly colored tracksuit while others wore jackets and neckties. He spoke in an unpolished and hyperbolic manner when gentility would have sufficed. He used a blend of theological and secular mysticism to control a large bloc of Venezuela’s easily led and even more easily riled underclass.
None of this even takes the man’s physical appearance into account. He always did have an unkempt look about him, which seemed to generate a perverse sort of pride. It was as if he embodied the very concept of mediocrity and championed it to no end.
Looks aren’t everything, though. We must not forget that as ugly as Chavez was, his agenda was even uglier. In the name of social justice and total equality, he banned critical media reports and nationalized anything that he desired. In the name of peace and human rights, he formed allegiances with some of the worst dictators on the face of the earth. In the name of Christianity and spirituality, he manipulated Roman Catholic doctrine in order to rationalize his public policy initiatives.
Indeed, Chavez was one-of-a-kind. He was a power monger who knew not only how to exploit the fears and prejudices of Venezuela’s disadvantaged, but the naiveté and self-loathing of Hollywood’s shining stars. Politicians here in the United States openly hailed the finer points of his economic plans. Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin went pretty far with their savagery, but they never managed anything like this.
One wonders what Chavez’s real motivations were. Was he truly looking out for the little people during his fourteen-year-plus rule? Did he first enter the political arena to support their interests? Needless to mention, he was a fundamentalist believer in the god of egalitarianism, which provides not for equality of opportunity, but equality of condition.
In all likelihood, he pursued the dream of robbing the haves so the have-nots could rejoice, and never let go of this fantasy until his dying day.
Why would Chavez waste his time on such tripe? As the son of impoverished schoolteachers, there can be little doubt that he felt a strong sense of solidarity with society’s lowest strata. Rather than seeking out success, he vilified it whenever and wherever possible. Instead of trying to climb the latter, he became a victim to his own inferiority complex. He turned his personal misery into the prime directive for a cause which would bring misfortune to untold millions.
Interestingly enough, he masqueraded this wholesale regression as a progressive movement. It was a movement that would never fool all of the people all of the time, but just enough to make life a living hell.
In retrospect, Chavez’s authoritarian fancies weren’t in line with the tolerance-and-love schtick of socialism. He was probably more of a communist with Stalinist aspirations. Whatever one should call him, his record speaks for itself. His legacy appears likely to be classified alongside those of Fidel Castro, Enver Hoxha, Robert Mugabe, and a painfully long list of others.
Upon further reflection, even even for those of us who do not believe in the supernatural, Chavez is most definitely marching in the underground revolution.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at