By Anthony L Hall
Nobody should have been shocked on Tuesday when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez finally died after a well-publicized, two-year battle against cancer.
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at http://ipjn.com
Nor, shamefully enough, should anybody have been shocked when so many in the United States joined a virtual conga line to dance on his grave … even before his body went cold. Which stood in stark contrast to the outpouring of grief and sorrow the announcement of his death evoked in almost every other country in the Americas….
Mind you, these dancing Americans are the same ones who always fulminated with indignation against Chávez’s provocative anti-American remarks, the highlight of which was calling former President George W. Bush “el diablo” (the devil) during a UN address in 2006.
To be sure, the defining feature of Chávez’s 14-year presidency was the way he used the United States as a bogeyman to justify his socialist agenda at home and foment his Bolivarian Revolution abroad. But instead of adding to the unseemliness of those reveling in his death, I shall reprise excerpts from a few of commentaries I’ve written over the years as a more fitting tribute:
Like Castro -- Chávez has become a real pain in the elephantine butt of the United States…
His fraternizing with Castro is the least of his perceived impertinences: he has befriended unrepentant communists in China and Russia and touted them as more worthy partners in the exploration and exploitation of Venezuela’s oil; he has even threatened, repeatedly, to cut-off Venezuela’s daily supply to the US of a desperately needed 1.5 million barrels of oil; he is flirting with the ‘hostile’ notion of purchasing a fleet of advanced military jets and helicopters from Russia; and his South American neighbors (Columbia in particular) are complaining that he’s aiding and abetting leftist rebels throughout the region.
Given the above, devotees of American imperial power might think it’s no wonder Chávez has been targeted for assassination. Of course, Bush maintains that he has no intention of killing Chávez … but that ‘all options remain on the table’ to deal with him.
Take cover Hugo!
[Least you think this is farfetched, bear in mind that the CIA abetted a harebrained 'rich-man' coup d'état against him in 2002. However, like all CIA attempts to depose Castro, this one failed. Chávez survived and was firmly back in power within two days.]
(“Chávez: Bush Is Trying to Kill Me!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 24, 2005)
Then came Sunday’s opening session of the three-day annual meeting of the OAS where, in stark contrast to last year’s meeting at which they heralded Chávez as the anti-Bush godfather of the Americas, erstwhile Chávez allies -- including delegations from Brazil, Peru, and Nicaragua -- decried his hegemonic meddling throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, much as they once decried meddling by US presidents.
(“Setbacks for Chávez’s Socialist Revolution in Latin America,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 6, 2006)
Although I am loath to suggest that Chávez is selling snake, not crude, oil, I have grave misgivings about the viability of PetroCaribe as an alternative to the FTAA and about its potential as a reliable source of ‘discounted’ energy for Caribbean countries…
Caribbean countries should be mindful of the significant geopolitical implications of this initiative. Especially since Chávez evidently regards it as a means of consolidating the political alliance he forged last year when he got Caribbean countries to abandon their traditional deference to the United States in order to support his candidate for president of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
(“PetroCaribe: Let’s Look This Gift Horse in the Mouth,” Caribbean Net News, June 30, 2006)
With Chávez ruling his country like a truly benign despot -- afflicting the comfortable (by, among other things, confiscating their land to redistribute among peasants as cooperative farms) and comforting the afflicted (by, among other things, using Venezuela’s oil wealth to provide comprehensive welfare programs) -- Rosales [the opposition presidential candidate] did not have a chance…
Henceforth I shall refrain from calling Chávez a ‘Castro wannabe.’ After all … having won two democratic elections, Chávez has earned the right to be distinguished -- as a benign dictator -- from Castro, who was never anything but a ruthless dictator for whom democratic elections were like the plague.
(“Viva Chávez!” The iPINIONS Journal, December 4, 2006)
Nobody should be surprised that Chávez is moving so aggressively to nationalize the key sectors of Venezuela’s economy. Nor should anyone be surprised that he is emulating his mentor Fidel Castro by squashing political dissent (e.g., by refusing to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television because he deemed their criticism of his policies ‘treasonous’).
After all, regardless of what one thinks about his form, in substance, Chávez is one of the most honest national leaders on the world stage today. Not least because no leader has ever subjected himself to free and fair elections -- during which he made plain his intent to wield dictatorial powers -- and won as clear a mandate as Chávez did to implement his socialist agenda.
(“Why All the Outrage Against Chávez…,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2007)
In a wholly predictable redo of his earlier defeat, Chávez won a resounding victory on Sunday on a referendum that will allow him to serve now as president for life…
The Bolivarian Revolution is a process whereby Chávez seizes control of the country’s oil revenues and confiscates private homes and businesses to put them all ‘at the service of Venezuela.’ Concomitant with this, he implements political and economic reforms to create his version of a socialist paradise … which he hopes to replicate throughout the Americas.
Now it seems only death by natural causes will prevent Chávez from emulating Castro; i.e., by using Venezuela as a laboratory for quixotic socialist policies for more than 50 years … come what may…
Despite his resources, however, I fear that, just as poor Cubans have little to show for having lived through Castro’s reign, poor Venezuelans will have no more to show for having lived through Chávez’s…
As one who still finds socialism politically redeeming, I am profoundly disappointed that Chávez has squandered a golden opportunity during his decade in power to vindicate this ideology in practice.
(“Viva Chávez … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 17, 2009)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin traveled to Venezuela a week ago today to sign a series of multibillion-dollar agreements with President-for-life Hugo Chávez. These agreements are purportedly aimed not only at helping Chávez build a space industry and develop a nuclear program but also at deepening military, energy, and financial ties between their two countries…
Given ongoing international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, does anyone think Venezuela stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of even building a nuclear plant?!
But who can blame them for treating Chávez like a rich fool to be parted with his money (by selling him snowballs to take to Hell … to complete the metaphor)? As for his space program, well, perhaps he’s planning to finally develop that vacant space between his ears…
(“Russians Treat Chavez like a Rich Fool,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 10, 2010)
Apropos of death by natural causes, it now seems that Chávez’s nine lives might be cut in half not by the CIA, but by cancer. Because earlier this year … he announced that he was receiving treatment in Cuba for an unspecified form of cancer.
(“Chávez’s Mortal Enemy Now is Cancer, Not the CIA,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 11, 2011)
Pre-election reports in the United Sates gave the impression that 40-year-old challenger Henrique Capriles was poised to dethrone Hugo Chávez on Sunday as president of Venezuela.
But I knew better… Chávez now has another six-year mandate to continue his Bolivarian Revolution at home while fomenting it abroad. What’s more, I am now more convinced than ever that only death will end his reign.
(“Viva Chávez … Again, Redux,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 9, 2012)
And so death has ended his reign.
But I would caution all those now hoping that what Chávez wrought will be buried along with him. Because all indications are that his handpicked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, will win the presidential election that is now constitutionally required to be held within 30 days.
More to the point, Maduro has already made clear his Chavismo intent to continue Chávez’s policies at home and abroad, and to do so with the same anti-American rhetoric -- even if without Chávez’s inimitable charisma and flair.
To signal this intent, Maduro paid tribute to Chávez’s death by expelling two American attaches and declaring his firm belief that the cancer that killed him was:
… induced by the historical enemies of our homeland. (Associated Press, March 2, 2013)
Chávez died in Venezuela on Tuesday. He was 58.
Bush is trying to kill me
Setbacks for Chávez
Why all the outrage…
Chávez’s mortal enemy…