The death of Hugo Chavez was officially announced today. When he actually died is unknown but Central American Newspapers have been running stories about it with the above picture for the last four days. The man who complained about the stench of sulfur now is finding out himself what brimstone really smells like. A darling of the left-wing jet set he welcomed prominent stars and terrorist dictators with equal ease. No man has made such a splash in the Latin world since his hero Fidel Castro burst on the scene. No man has been as destructive either. The economy, freedom and the rule of law were all sacrificed to his ego and socialist dream. Venezuela was making slow progress and with the discovery of oil had a bright future before he took the reigns of power. Now the economy and political scene of this aspiring star of Latin America lies in ruins.
It Is somehow appropriate that the man who has so decimated his country shares his name with an infamous hurricane. Like the namesake, he has left a wide swath of destruction in his path. Like his heroes, Fidel and Stalin, he crushed freedom of speech and the press. His confiscations of property made a mockery of the rule of law and chased investment dollars out of the country. As a result of his death grip inflation soared and shortages became rampant. Still, even as by every measure the country was worse off for his policies, his popularity among the poor and the far left gave him enough support to hold on to power. It seems blaming the rich and foreigners as well as initiating a few pet projects with great fanfare can go a long way to covering up incompetence.
The sad part is Venezuela is a rich country with significant oil reserves. It has a good education system and the potential to be a world class tourist destination to boot. There is no reason for the people of Venezuela to be suffering as they are. There is no good reason for the turmoil and desolation he left behind. The only explanation is this is what happens when reason is sacrificed to ego.
The truth is that for all his socialist rhetoric Hugo Chavez was just another Latin American dictator raping his country for all it was worth. As his inept policies destroyed much of the countries economic base, even the oil money that flowed into his coffers was not enough to cover for the loss. He and his generals turned to narco trafficking as well to supplement his need for cash. Now with him gone it is very much in the financial interest of his generals to keep the money funneling apparatus he created in place; no matter how much it hurts the country and its people.
If this was another time and the U.S. had a different president, Chavez would have been called out for his crimes. His death would of meant a diplomatic and economic push to bring the country back in line. Today though, there is a President in power for whom leading from behind is his motto and who will only act when pushed to do so. Unless the people of Venezuela rise up and dispose of the cancerous tumor that is Chavez’s legacy the chances are his death will bring little change. If they do so they can expect little help from the outside and especially from the United States.
There is a quaint saying seen from time to time that says “if you can’t be a great example than be a terrible warning.” If any good can come of the life and death of Hugo Chavez it is this, he has proven once again that socialist policies are inherently dictatorial and economically devastating. Something the American people and Europeans should both take to heart. With Chavez gone one would hope there might be a chance now for a brighter future. Unfortunately the chances are high (but not absolute) that the destruction started under Chavez will continue after his death. The reasons are many but mostly they boil done to the fact he developed a significant power structure that will not disappear so easily. His Vice President has already started rumors of poisoning to rally the populous to his side. It seems the names of history’s dictators may change but the tactics stay the same.
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