We come to bury Hugo Chavez, not to praise him.
The Venezuelan president, who died last week, was a brutal thug who arrested and jailed those who disagreed with his policies. He was a charlatan who conned his people with revolutionary rhetoric while demolishing democratic institutions to preserve his own political power, all while lining his pockets with the wealth generated by his country’s vast natural resources.
One can judge a man fairly by his friends. Chavez’s were Cuba’s Fidel and Raul Castro, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
So given this track record of political repression, power accumulation, looting of the public treasury and association with the world’s worst dictators, it is only natural that Chavez would be hailed as a champion of “the people” by the eternally gullible American and international left.
Former President Jimmy Carter lauded Chavez for his “commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.” Carter is naive: Chavez was committed to improving no one’s lot but his own.”
After more than a decade of Chavez’s misrule, the lives of ordinary Venezuelans are measurably worse. A nation with the natural wealth of Venezuela and its relatively small population ought to be a land of plenty. Yet the country suffers from shortages of basic goods such as flour and corn meal. Inflation is running at 22 percent and currency devaluations have stripped people of what wealth they had.
This has been the result of socialist experiments throughout history. Yet the delusions continue. “There is no other path to redemption for the human being than socialism,” Chavez said on the 10th anniversary of his regime.
Chavez was also a darling of the Hollywood left. Luminaries such as Sean Penn, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore were eager to praise Chavez.
“I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place,” Stone posted to Twitter last week. The journalists and broadcasters who were jailed or shut down for criticism of Chavez might disagree with the “hero” moniker.
Like many tin-pot tyrants, Chavez deflected attention from his own failings by conjuring up for his people an intractable enemy. For Chavez, the enemy was “imperialism” in general and the United States in particular. George W. Bush was the devil; Chavez once commented that he smelled sulfur after a Bush speech at the United Nations. At Chavez’s funeral, Ahmadinejad praised his “anti-imperialism” and kissed his coffin.
That coffin was empty. Chavez’s body will be preserved and placed on display, rather like a cut-rate Lenin.
We suspect that Venezuelans will have much less patience with “Chavismo” than Russians did with Leninism. Eventually, they will tear down the edifice that Chavez build to his own glory and start again. Sic semper tyrannis.