Hugo Chavez 1954-2013

Written by  //  April 15, 2013  //  Americas  //  No comments

Curious coincidence that Mr. Chavez died on the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death.

hugo-chavez-election1Hugo Chavez: 1954-2013
From an impoverished childhood to the forefront of Latin American politics
Hugo Chavez, the popular but polarizing and provocative president of Venezuela, has died in office. He was 58.
Chavez gained international attention as the key leader of a new leftward direction for several Latin American governments and as a thorn in the side of the U.S. administration.
A baseball player, military officer, national heartthrob and reality TV star, Chavez went from an impoverished childhood to the forefront of Latin American politics.
His life had many key moments, but two pairs of events are critical. One was the coup he led that failed but set him on the road to success, and a coup against him that succeeded but then failed within 48 hours.
And there was the constitutional referendum he won in 1999 and the one he lost in 2007, the only vote Chavez ever lost.


Venezuela’s presidential election Maduro’s pyrrhic victory

(The Economist) ELECTIONS don’t come much closer. After counting more than 99% of the votes Venezuela’s election authority announced late on Sunday night that the government’s presidential candidate, Nicolás Maduro, had beaten his rival, Henrique Capriles of the Democratic Unity coalition, by just 1.59%. Of almost 14.8m votes cast, fewer than 235,000 separated the two candidates.
Mr Capriles and his campaign team have announced their refusal to accept the electronic vote-tally unless the electoral authority agrees to open all the ballot boxes and count the paper ballots. Their position is supported by the only opposition-leaning member of the electoral authority’s five-person board, Vicente Díaz. According to Mr Capriles, the opposition logged more than 3,200 irregularities—enough, he said, to render Mr Maduro’s victory margin moot.
14 March
Hugo Chávez Picks Pope Francis From Beyond the Graveis there no end to the claims that will be made of the late Mr. Chavez’s importance?
(ABC News) Hugo Chávez is preparing a new revolution, according to Venezuela’s acting president Nicolás Maduro. This time, the recently deceased Venezuelan leader seems to be planning a takeover of the Catholic Church. Maduro joked that he will do it from heaven, and that the first stage is already under way.
“We have important news,” Maduro said Wednesday during the opening ceremony of Caracas’ International Book Fair. “They just elected a South American as pope for the first time in history… We know that our commander has ascended to [heaven], and that he is in front of Christ right now. He must have influenced something for a South American pope to be chosen.”
11 March
Venezuela’s Capriles joins race, tussles with Chavez heir
(Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition leader vowed on Sunday to fight late Hugo Chavez’s preferred successor for the presidency next month and the pair quickly locked horns in an angry war of words.
Henrique Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, will face election favorite and acting President Nicolas Maduro. The pair must register their candidacies for the April 14 vote on Monday.
8 March
Analysis: Deification of founder to help “Chavismo” survive
(Reuters) – Within hours of Hugo Chavez’s death, makeshift altars were going up in homes and on street corners around Venezuela with candles, photos and offerings for the late president. Weeping beside his coffin, supporters are likening him to independence hero Simon Bolivar and even Jesus Christ. Ministers quote his words and precepts in reverential tones. Having fostered a cult of personality during his extraordinary life, Chavez is fast being deified in death.
The outpouring of love and mythologizing of Chavez may seem over-the-top to detractors, but the sentiments run deep for millions of supporters who adored his flamboyant style and attention to the poor while overlooking his autocratic side.
Jean Chrétien, what were you thinking?
Ahmadinejad, Castro, Chrétien all in Caracas as Chavez’s funeral draws leaders from around the world
(National Post) Venezuela announced Thursday that it would embalm Chavez’s body and put it on permanent display, a decision that touched off strong passions on both sides of this deeply divided country.
(HuffPost) Hugo Chavez is to have the somewhat dubious honour of joining the “controversial embalmed corpses of leaders” club, it was announced on Friday.
Some of the world’s fiercest dictators and ideological leaders [e.g. China’s Mao, Russia’s Lenin, the Philippines’ Marcos and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh] have had their waxen remains placed in glass coffins for the faithful to shuffle past.
But to keep leaders like China’s Mao and Russia’s Lenin fresh from decay involves an intense and costly process. [Who, What, Why: How do you embalm a leader?]

Hugo Chávez’s rotten legacy
The appeal of populist autocracy has been weakened but not extinguished
(The Economist) Behind the propaganda, Venezuela’s ugly reality is that of a corrupt, cynical and incompetent regime. It is regrettable that Mr Chávez will not be around to reap the whirlwind he has sown: perversely, the worse things now get in Venezuela, the more this will flatter his memory. So despite its malign effect on Venezuela, chavismo will survive its creator’s demise, much as Peronism has outlived Colonel Juan Perón in Argentina.
The venom behind the bear hugs
Elsewhere in Latin America, Mr Chávez’s influence has waned in recent years. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa is best placed to inherit his mantle: in power since 2007, he romped to another four-year term at an election in February—and he has oil. But Ecuador, like Bolivia, where Evo Morales, a fellow socialist, remains unchallenged, lacks Venezuela’s size, wealth and clout. Argentina’s Cristina Fernández, a semi-detached ally, has mounting problems of her own. As for Cuba, which gets around $6 billion a year from Venezuela, the Castros have manoeuvred to put Mr Maduro, their closest Venezuelan ally, in power. Cuban communism and the Bolivarian revolution have swum together; if Mr Maduro falters, they may sink together

So Long, Chávez — Where Does This Leave Venezuela?
By Michael Shifter
After a reign of 14 years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died on March 5, 2013. Regardless of what follows, Chávez’s legacy, and the damage he left behind, will not be easily undone.
(Foreign Affairs) Two decades ago, following the end of the Cold War, the United States and Latin America seemed more prepared than ever before to forge political and economic partnerships. … Since 1999, however, when the recently deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez came to power, the sense of community in the region has dissipated. Policy divergences among Latin American countries have become sharper; free trade and liberal democracy are no longer popular goals; and Latin America and the United States have, albeit cordially, gone their separate ways. Admittedly, generalizations about Latin America are risky; after all, for every country that has deviated from democratic norms, another has moved toward them. And Chávez was not single-handedly responsible for deflating the hopeful spirit that prevailed two decades ago. But his relentless defiance of Washington and its chief allies — often accompanied by aggressive, even belligerent, rhetoric — polarized the region. … Chávez’s approach to his country’s acute social problems ultimately proved ineffective and unsustainable. His programs were patronage-driven and did virtually nothing to create enduring institutions for broad-based, long-term economic and social development. Although his aggressive attacks against traditional elite groups (“rancid oligarchy” was a favorite characterization), had some popular resonance, the virulence of his discourse made his social programs more controversial and divisive than necessary, which ultimately undermined their success.

Now the conspiracy theories are in full swing: Who really killed Hugo Chavez?

Chavez last words were ‘I don’t want to die’
As country begins seven days of mourning, head of presidential guard says Chavez died of a massive heart attack.
(Al Jazeera) President Hugo Chavez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering and inaudibly mouthed his desire to live, the head of Venezuela’s presidential guard has said.
“He couldn’t speak, but he said it with his lips … ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,’ because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country,” General Jose Ornella told The Associated Press.

Death of a ruthless autocrat
(The Australian) HE was lionised as a hero by the Western Left, of course, but it would be hard to find a leader in recent history who more comprehensively betrayed the wellbeing of his country than Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He was driven by an irrational, demagogic and self-defeating antagonism towards Washington that blinded him to his nation’s best interests. … Squandering Venezuela’s vast oil wealth should have been challenging. But Mr Chavez was more than equal to the task — his populist economics creating inflation now running at 22 per cent, massive corruption, a bloated public sector and a crippled private sector that has seen the number of private companies drop from 14,000 to 9000. Even China, which has lent Venezuela $US39 billion against future oil sales, gave up on him, sending his Foreign Minister scurrying back to Caracas empty-handed shortly before Mr Chavez’s death.

Venezuela after Chávez — Now for the reckoning
(The Economist) … The bigger question in the months ahead will be how much will survive of Mr Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”, named for Simón Bolívar, South America’s Venezuelan-born independence hero. His reluctance to surrender power despite his illness underlined just how personal his regime was. Through a mixture of unusual political talent and extraordinary good fortune, Mr Chávez managed to make himself into a world figure. Death cut short his oft-stated intention to rule his country until 2030. And it means he will not be around to face the reckoning after 14 years of a corrupt, oil-fuelled autocracy.
… After a pre-election spending binge last year, the economy is slowing again. Faced with shortages of many goods, including hard currency, Mr Maduro devalued the currency by 32% in February. Venezuela comes towards the bottom of just about every league table for good governance or economic competitiveness. For 14 years Venezuelans have been told that their problems were caused by somebody else—the United States or “the oligarchy”. Getting ahead has depended on political loyalty rather than merit. The mass enrolment of millions in “universities” that mainly impart propaganda have raised expectations that are almost bound to be dashed.
… A majority of Venezuelans may eventually come to see that Mr Chávez squandered an extraordinary opportunity for his country, to use an unprecedented oil boom to equip it with world-class infrastructure and to provide the best education and health services money can buy. But this lesson will come the hard way, and there is no guarantee that it will be learned.

cassidy-chavez.jpg

Venezuela’s “Resource Curse” Will Outlive Hugo Chávez
(The New Yorker) As far as economists are concerned, Chávez was … On one hand, he was a nutty professor—an increasingly authoritarian one—carrying out a fascinating if unnerving experiment in utopian socialism: grabbing control of Venezuela’s vast oil wealth, using its proceeds to fund social and anti-poverty projects, and expelling the free-market scolds from the I.M.F., the World Bank, and his country’s business establishment. On the other hand, Chávez was a leader dealing with the “resource curse” that has afflicted all too many developing countries.
Rather than generating peace and prosperity, the presence of mineral and oil wealth in countries that have been poor often leads to political conflict, corruption, and, in extreme cases, civil war. While Venezuela remains a very divided country, it didn’t fall to those depths. But with some estimates now showing Venezuela harboring bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, the question of how to manage its immensely valuable natural resources may well cause even more intense conflict in the years ahead.

Hugo Chavez, fiery Venezuelan leader, dies at 58
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez was a former paratroop commander and self-styled “subversive” who waged continual battle for his socialist ideals. He bedeviled the United States and outsmarted his rivals time and again, while using Venezuela’s vast oil wealth to his political advantage.
Chavez led one coup attempt, defeated another and was re-elected three times. Almost the only adversary it seemed he couldn’t beat was cancer. He died Tuesday in Caracas at age 58, two years after he was first diagnosed.
The son of schoolteachers, he rose from poverty in a dirt-floor, mud-walled house, a “humble soldier” in the battle for socialism. He fashioned himself after 19th-century independence leader Simon Bolivar and renamed his country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
During more than 14 years in office, his leftist politics and grandiose style polarized Venezuelans. The barrel-chested leader electrified crowds with his booming voice, and won admiration among the poor with government social programs and a folksy, nationalistic style.
Opponents seethed at the larger-than-life character who demonized them on television and ordered the expropriation of farms and businesses. Many in the middle class cringed at his bombast and complained about rising crime, soaring inflation and government economic controls.
Chavez used his country’s oil wealth to launch social programs that included state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. While poverty declined during his presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy.

The Ghost of Hugo Chávez
(Slate) How his economically disastrous, politically effective ideology will haunt the country he ruined.
What has Chávez bequeathed his fellow Venezuelans? The hard facts are unmistakable: The oil-rich South American country is in shambles. It has one of the world’s highest rates of inflation, largest fiscal deficits, and fastest growing debts. Despite a boom in oil prices, the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair—power outages and rolling blackouts are common—and it is more dependent on crude exports than when Chávez arrived. Venezuela is the only member of OPEC that suffers from shortages of staples such as flour, milk, and sugar. Crime and violence skyrocketed during Chávez’s years. On an average weekend, more people are killed in Caracas than in Baghdad and Kabul combined. (In 2009, there were 19,133 murders in Venezuela, more than four times the number of a decade earlier.) When the grisly statistics failed to improve, the Venezuelan government simply stopped publishing the figures.     …
Chávez didn’t fear elections; He embraced them. Most opposition leaders will tell you that Venezuelan elections are relatively clean. The problem isn’t Election Day—It’s the other 364 days. Rather than stuffing ballot boxes, Chávez understood that he could tilt the playing field enough to make it nearly impossible to defeat him. Thus, the regime’s electoral wizards engineered gerrymandering schemes that made anything attempted in the American South look like child’s play. Chávez’s campaign coffers were fed by opaque slush funds holding billions in oil revenue. The government’s media dominance drowned out the opposition. Politicians who appeared formidable were simply banned from running for office. And the ruling party became expert in using fear and selective intimidation to tamp down the vote. Chávez took a populist message and married it to an autocratic scheme that allowed him to consolidate power. The net effect over Chávez’s years was a paradoxical one: With each election Venezuela lost more of its democracy.

Hugo Chávez: Death of a socialist
(The Hindu) Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, President of Venezuela, who died on March 5, 2013 at the age of 58, was a defining figure in Latin American politics for 15 years, becoming almost synonymous with the popular tide that has elected and re-elected left and centre-left governments across the continent in that time.

Hugo Chavez and the era of anti-American bogeymen
(BBC) Hugo Chavez is the latest outspoken critic of the US to leave the world stage. Is the era of the anti-American bogeymen at an end?
He floridly lambasted “imperial” American policies, compared George W Bush to Hitler and even warned that exporting Halloween to Latin America amounted to “terrorism”.
But now Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – variously portrayed as a six-times elected champion of the people or a constitution-fiddling demagogue – is dead.
His is not the only voice vociferously opposing the US to have fallen silent.
Recent years have seen the most prominent critics of American power exit the spotlight.

Chavez death reactions in Canada as polarized as in Venezuela
He thrived on confrontation, so it’s no surprise that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez’s death has provoked mixed reactions in his country and around the world. …
Hugo Chavez’s death made headlines in many Canadian newspapers. While The Montreal Gazette writes that “Hugo Chavez channeled oil money to the poor and transformed Venezuela”, the National Post’s front-page article says that Chavez is one among many left-leaning Latin leaders who have “brought political repression and economic hardship to their people.”
To The Globe and Mail, the Venezuelan leader was revolutionary. To the Calgary Herald , he was a Chavez ‘subversive’ who “thrived on conflict.”
The Ottawa Citizen preferred to put emphasis on Chavez’s “polarizing revolution”, Montreal French language newspaper La Presse summed up the leader’s character with the headline: “Héros et trublion”. Indeed, Hugo Chavez was at once a hero and a troublemaker.

Can Hugo Chavez’s high-stakes revolution survive his death?
(CBC) Hugo Chavez, a giant on the Latin American political stage, is a hard act to follow
Venezuela has begun seven days of mourning following the death of President Hugo Chavez, who loomed so large in his country’s politics and recent history. While Chavez’s life is being remembered, many are also pondering the country’s future.
During the 14 years Chavez was president, both Venezuela and Latin America saw significant change politically and economically. But Venezuela has seemed to be in a state of uncertainty since shortly after last year’s presidential election. After winning it handily, Chavez announced his cancer had returned.

Why Did Hugo Chávez Hate the United States So Much?
He once wielded a ceremonial gavel at the New York Stock Exchange.
(Slate) … The relationship between the United States and Chávez took a decisive turn at the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in April 2001. The Bush administration’s top priority was finalizing the Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would have extended NAFTA throughout the Americas (excluding Cuba). Chávez was convinced the agreement would entrench disparities between the region’s wealthy and poor countries. He accused the Bush administration of bullying smaller neighbors and treating the free trade agreement as a certainty “written on Moses’s tablets.” Although Chávez and Bush made weak attempts at reconciliation at the meeting—they told each other they wanted to be “friends” on the summit’s final day—the meeting showed Chávez that his surest path to global significance was as an opponent of the United States. Chávez repeatedly claimed that the CIA was trying to assassinate him and that the United States attempted to oust him from office in 2002.

4 January
Chavismo After Chávez — The Race to Claim the Mantle of Venezuela’s Revolution
By Javier Corrales
Venezuela’s United Socialist Party is already facing a succession battle between two prospective successors to Hugo Chávez: Nicolás Maduro, an avowed communist and close friend of Cuba, and Diosdado Cabello, a former military official with ties to the country’s business community. Whichever man wins, he will have to remember that Chávez has skillfully relied on a mix of both strategies to win the love of his people — strident anti-americanism and largess for the poor on the one hand, and kickbacks to big business and billions of dollars in oil sales to the United States on the other.

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