In an earlier and saner day he would have been called a fascist, today he is a hero to progressives everywhere. Lauded by Ken Livingstone, Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Channel 4 News, the TUC etc., the progressive standard bearers had difficulty choking back the tears for Hugo Chavez.
Yet Chavez was an anti-Semitic demagogue and chauvinistic nationalist who hated Israel, hated the United States, hated democracy, and favoured state control of the economy. Our progressive elites joined such stalwarts of human rights as president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of right wing theocratic Iran who has every confidence that this “brave, strong” man will return, “along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human.”
The one time paratrooper was the leader of a failed military coup, once he became president Chávez militarized Venezuelan society, creating pro-government citizen brigades armed with Russian assault rifles to serve as a personal praetorian guard.
Like all dictators he tried to defuse the situation at home by threatening neighbouring countries and constantly warning of looming invasions. The Jews and Americans were involved in seemingly never ending conspiracies against him. He made friends with the most reactionary and fascistic governments on earth: Iran’s theocracy, the racist Mugabe dictatorship in Zimbabwe and the kleptocracy ruling Russia, and of course he supplied fuel for the regime of Bashar al-Assad the hereditary dictator of Syria who is waging war against his own people.
Despite all the evidence of being a fascist Chávez remained a folk hero to Western “progressives”, who blithely ignored or excused his bigotry, his militarism, and his trampling of democracy. And why not, after all he hated the USA and that excuses anything for progressives.
The most extraordinary progressive eulogy comes from professor Greg Grandin of New York University. Grandin acknowledges that Chávez “packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree, and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances.” However, in Grandin’s view, all of that was justified: “The biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.” In other words: if the progressive left have a problem with Chavez it is that he wasn’t dictator enough.
The results of Chavez rule:
Economic: Venezuela is suffering from food shortages, goods shortages, electricity shortages, and 20.1% annual inflation in 2012 and a monthly inflation rate in January 2013 of 3.3%. Last month the currency had to be devalued by nearly 1/3. A remarkable record for one of the world’s oil rich countries.
Political: Venezuela is now an elected autocracy where the central government controls the courts, the legislature, and the electoral council. Such niceties as cabinet meetings were dispensed with in favour of rambling monologues on television. The constitution was rewritten to allow Chavez to continue in the presidency without term limit. There is now virtually no independent media in Venezuela. It is always possible to win elections if you control the media.
Human: Venezuela now has the second highest murder rate in the world. There is no capital city on earth more dangerous than Caracas. Last June, El Universal reported that Venezuela had experienced no fewer than 155,788 murders since 1999, when Chávez first took office. This in a country of just 29 million inhabitants.
But still, he hated the USA and so therefore was a good chap.