Hugo Chávez is dead

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1954-2013Hugo Chávez, who transformed Venezuela from a deeply flawed democracy into a nearly flawless autocracy, is dead at 58.

My thoughts on the way Fidel Castro shaped his political imagination are in The New Republic. My review of the way the chavista cult of personality warped Venezuela’s public sphere is in The Atlantic. 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Well, it seems to me very odd that they would all be gathered at Miraflores, and then would go to the Military Hospital, just for Chávez to die in that precise moment. But, okay. Not that it’s particularly relevant now.

    • I find it odd that chavez died towards the end of the real.madrid match, conveniently allowing the vp to announce the news as part of his trailed evening statement. Coincidence I’m sure…

  2. dedicating to Hugo…
    Someone’s painting black everything that hasnt yet been dark But in the black window there is something white, it seems like A kerchief that’s seen even far distance off. Troubles don’t vanish, They just slip away, wish There was a hope waving Me with its hand. Go step by step and, Whatever has happened, One night there may be Peace with no end. Well, I can see no longer green grass under my feet, I can see no more yellow paths under my feet, Even the blue sky up above my head I can’t see. There is someone to tackle their black deals with hands dressed in dark gloves But while I can see this white flame flickering in the darkness Nothing really evil can happen to me. Troubles don’t vanish, They just slip away, wish There was a hope waving Me with its hand. Go step by …
    [ a translation from Vera’s original]

    • You were my sun
      You were my earth
      But you didn’t know all the ways I loved you, no
      So you took a chance
      And made other plans
      But I bet you didn’t think that they would come crashing down, no

      You don’t have to say, what you did,
      I already know, I found out from him
      Now there’s just no chance, for you and me, there’ll never be
      And don’t it make you sad about it

      You told me you loved me
      Why did you leave me, all alone

    • Help me get myself clear. Tell me if I am being delusional. About four days ago, the opposition began demanding the “truth” regarding Chavez’s health and calling the government “liars”. The following day, someone in the government insisted they were telling the “Truth” about Chavez’s health, and accusing the opposition of “Psychological Warfare” and of trying to create “disarray” among the Presidents supporters. Then students demonstrations began demanding the “Truth” about Chavez’s health on Sunday… and today he is dead!!!!! That’s a lot of history in just a four day period. If I were the suspicious type, I might think Chavez’s death was not a coincidence, but maybe it was a decision to abandon the strategy of lying to the public.
      Also, what is all this defensiveness about Chavista “Unity” all about?

    • Thanks, Moraima. Though I can’t forget all the years that Romero wrote for the NYT, lavishing praise on Chávez, before he actually lived the Venezuelan reality for a few years. He seemed to have become disenchanted with the reality (riding the luxurious airbus with Chávez and Sean Penn). It took Romero way too many years to see behind the cosmetics of the revolution. In the process, he inflated it with oxygen through the international press (NYT). So yes, it’s a good collage on the Chávez years … from someone I’ll never respect.

  3. Damn, hopefully the election is delayed for awhile. The economic crisis of hyperinflation and spending cuts has just started to really be felt in Venezuela, I hardly think it would be good for the opposition to win a presidential election now. On the other hand, six years is a really long term to hand to Chavezismo… probably enough time to manufacture another ephemeral boom.

    I was hoping Chavez would hold on for awhile longer, I was praying for his health.

  4. My heart is heavy with this news. Hugo Chavez was one of my favourite presidents. He had his faults as do they all but he didn’t let other nations push him around. We need more leaders like that in the world. #VivaChavezNoMore

    • We still have some leaders like him in the world to admire: those of Cuba, North Korea, BielorussIa, et. al.. You don’t have to “…cry for him (A)travesao.”

      • I know there are but it is different when you’re not in Venezuela. All we get outside is the filtered news of what some TV executive thinks is important. So for me, it seems like he just died all of a sudden! But I’m sure those in Venezuela could have sensed it coming. My condolences to his family. Venezuela will have many more presidents but for his loved ones there will only be one Hugo.

  5. Are we seeing a coup against diosdado? Cnn reports Military chiefs pledging allegiance to maduro, cabello not in town, troops being deployed…

  6. I have nothing to celebrate. I just want the country to exit this situation peacefully. Until then I have nothing to celebrate.

    • agree. besides, for those following scuttlebut, and rumours of brain-death, late last year, this end is anti-climactic.

      The cadena this afternoon of Maduro’s announcement almost has me believing that Chávez’ last moments of (artificial) breath did indeed happen this afternoon morning. Maduro’s choked-up voice was not an act.

      • I suspect 2 things:

        that Maduro and Cabello were more in the dark over Chávez’ true state of health and time of death than we think. (Maduro’s choked up emotions during the death announcement came across as very real to me.)

        that Maduro’s pre-death announcement followed a Cuban script.

  7. Thank you, Juan, for selecting/posting that photo of Chávez. The series of shots taken when Chávez battled for votes in the rain, are the nec plus ultra of photographic and political imagery.

  8. For you conspiracy lovers, what if Cabello’s mother’s death was preordained to happen yesterday and this announcement for today in his absence?

  9. I suppose we cannot feel glee at the private tragedy of the individual Hugo Chavez Frias and his family. And I don’t feel it.

    However, I am quite relieved this is over. For we, and Venezuelans at large are all unwilling participants in this sad psychodrama that might bring tears to the gullible and the fanatics, but only to them.

    For neither the deceased, nor his family, or his associates, or his loving followers allowed that for a second. That his illness, therapy, recovery or death become that of a private person. Had they done that, they might even have saved his life.

    His health was made into a Soviet State Secret, then it was mediatic again, then it was politic, and electoral at that, then, a long drawn telenovela with appropriately vague reporting on his condition as is usual in telenovelas, just the emotion, ma’am, no facts allowed; then an attempt at building a legend. And now, I can guess they will try the cult-building and grief hysterics.

    Methinks I shall remain sober.

  10. My condolences to the Venezuelan people: for what has been and what is, but mostly, for what is to come.

    No good will come of this in the short term.

  11. My condolences to his family and to those who followed him, many of whom clearly had a very strong emotional attachment to him.
    It is hard for me to see how this turn of events will lead to anything good for the country of Venezuela. Chavez leaves the scene on top with his record of accomplishments, real or perceived, in tact. His brand of oil financed social spending and “Walmart” socialism where even the upper classes got lots of goodies is now the benchmark against which every Venezuela government for the next 30 or so years will be judged. Venezuela’s most fundamental problem is that it consumes too much and invests too little. How will any leader, be they Chavista, opposition, or anyone else, be able to change that now without immediately being hounded out of office? If the memories of the CAP oil boom led to the Caracazo imagine what will happen when some future president won’t spend every last Bolivar propping up a upper class consumption binge and wasteful subsidies in addition to expensive social programs?
    As long as the commodity booms continue Venezuela may not collapse, just as it is not collapsing now, but neither will it progress, just as it isn’t progressing now. Very sad and depressing. Chavez leaving via the ballot box would have been much, much, much better, at least for the country as a whole if not for those who always hated Chavez more than they cared about Venezuela.

    • Its been long, long time my friend. Isn’t strange how death compels people to associate.

      I will add to what you have correctly stated and say that the brand of “Walmart” socialism (although I don’t agree with that terminology entirely), has been adopted by several Latin American leaders over the years. This legacy, or as you more aptly describe, benchmark, will indeed be difficult to suppress not only in Venezuela but more importantly in a regional sense for the foreseeable future.

  12. Damn it, I am starting to believe they are going to ignore the constitution. The supreme court will find it´s way around it.

  13. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua is releasing some details about the upcoming funeral of Hugo Chávez: Tomorrow, his body will be carried through Caracas to Los Proceres and will finish in the Military Academy. He will lie in state there until Friday morning, where the State funeral will take place. No details yet of where he will be buried. Seven days of national mourning has been declared.

    • Not to demean the sorrow that his family and followers are going through, but it feels good to read “the late Hugo Chávez”. It is a tension releaser.

  14. The way the succession situation seems to be working out will depend on how the January 9 ruling holds.

    If it is respected, Maduro is Pres.

    If it is considered that Chavez was President Elect, but since he did not swear in, then Diosdado is the MFIC

    My guess is they will not want to step on the TSJ, so Maduro will be declared MFIC.

  15. I thought I’d drop by and pay my condolences. May Venezuela rise to the occasion amidst uncertainty and remain representative of the entirety of its population. Great job with the blog Quico – I commend you.

      • I wouldn’t go so far. I still believe the concepts were true – the practice perhaps lacking in many areas. However, in the face of continued obstructionism – internal as well as external – one can realize that populism stands as one of the very few last resorts to accomplish a broader set of ideals. A fault maybe, but effective. I’m sure you will agree.

  16. The two linked articles were excellent! The one in the New Republic was more surprising to me, in part because I don’t think you have written in that vein here at the CC. Both were great!

  17. >>> … My review of the way the chavista cult of personality warped Venezuela’s public sphere is in The Atlantic.

    an impressive, dispassionate exposition. Congrats.
    May you always be so lucid and fairminded,
    Listening to that man spout his venom for over fifteen hate-filled years
    without losing your own bearings and your perspective should make your
    near and dear ones even prouder of your investigative integrity.

  18. I’m impressed with all the great writing which Mr Chavez death has ocassioned in these pages but Im particularly dazzled by the utter brilliance of the Atlantic piece , this is great writing and journalism at its best .!! kudos to the author!!

  19. Quico, great Atlantic piece.

    “Under Chávez, Venezuela became an Oral Republic, a place where an off-the-cuff remark could land you in jail, end your job, see your property seized, or, alternatively, set an orgy of petrodollar spending loose on your community.”

    Kudos.

  20. Dang, Fourteen years of hating Chavez down the drain.
    Tomorrow I have to look for something else to do.

    Keep on blogging.

  21. I would like to say that I lament his pain and the pain of his family. Even if he was fake and skin-deep in so many of his statements and analysis, the fact that he way more humanitarian than his lunatic friends and idols, and tried to help the poor and marginalized a lot more than most Latin-American presidents, I will give him my best wishes for the afterlife, despite all the damage he did to Venezuela. Latin-American has seen a lot worse than him (as well as a lot better). Also, as much as I dislike to admit it, he did a lot for uniting Latin America politically and bring in a new regionalist era.

    God decided that Venezuela did not yet deserve a lesson that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not sure why, but God today perfects a corrupting, damaging and long-lasting romantic myth: that you can have all the rights without any of the responsibilities, and that it will work on National scale forever. With their emotional and analytical toolset permanently damaged, a lot of Venezuelans will have a real hard time to formulate responsible and popular political proposals in the future to come. Maybe God is protestant and feels that he should only help those who help themselves.

    In the times to come, I hope that Venezuela will have the best political leadership possible, and that all political sectors mature and improve. Huge technological changes are coming and will transform human societies. Let’s hope the meeting of post-Chavez Venezuela with the times to come are lighter than I fear.

  22. From your Atlantic piece: “There’s an ineffable creepiness to a society where the leader never pays a political price for what he says, no matter how plainly crazy or illegal it may be.” The first half of this sentence sums up what is wrong with Venezuela, Venezuelans as a society. The passing of Chávez is a turning point but far from a solution. Unfortunately the slogan, “We are all Chávez” is painfully accurate, he was just of reflection of all venezuelans.

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