Photo: Wall Street International Magazine

When a CNN notification woke me up from a nap in 2013 with news that Hugo Chávez had died, I first got excited at the possibility that Venezuela was finally exiting the dark tunnel it had entered over two decades ago. Then, the realization that the boogey-man of my time would never pay for his crimes at least in this dimension hit me.

Chávez was always a lucky guy. So lucky that he was absolved from his crime of attempted murder against a sitting president in 1992. So fortunate that the only thing standing between him and the presidency was an unpopular status-quo and the beauty queen he ran against in 1998. In the end, he was so lucky that he died just before his 21st century socialism proved fatal to every aspect of Venezuelan society, scattering more than two million migrants across the globe.

He was so lucky that he died just before his 21st century socialism proved fatal to every aspect of Venezuelan society.

History tends to romanticize those who die young. There’s the risk of Chávez becoming an icon of socialism: a Ché Guevara-like figure who ends up on the T-shirts and tattoos of hipsters across the world despite his crimes against humanity.

His untimely death left his life open to interpretation for many, especially because it wasn’t really until after he was gone that the horrors of the Venezuelan crisis reached the newsfeeds of people all over the world.

Earlier this year, during an explanation of the surreal Venezuelan situation that focused on Maduro’s incompetence, HBO’s John Oliver theorized that “as long as the price of oil went up forever and Chávez never died, the cracks could have been papered over.”

The typical Chávez biography frames him as a “controversial” leader who some Venezuelans saw as authoritarian and others as the Second Coming of Simón Bolívar.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, although Chávez’s opponents argued that he engaged in undemocratic behavior, his supporters pointed to successful education programs, increased access to health care, a rise in employment, and a more than 20% drop in the poverty rate under Chávez’s rule.

The reduction of poverty and increase of access to health care and education were temporary, as we all know by now. Yet they have remained talking points when discussing Chávez’s legacy.

He was a master media manipulator who spent millions of dollars to curate the parts of his persona and revolution he wanted to show to the world.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise, since Chávez loved mingling with the Hollywood elites that a true socialist would wrinkle their nose at. He was a master media manipulator who spent millions of dollars to curate the parts of his persona and revolution he wanted to show to the world.

For this, he enlisted the help of international celebrities like Sean Penn and Danny Glover, who protest capitalism while cruising through Los Angeles in a sports car and a Starbucks drink in hand. Some of them took Venezuela’s money and a picture before vanishing from the stage, but Oliver Stone created a documentary, South of the Border, that was available on Netflix until recently.

The brilliantly-produced film features Chávez at his most charismatic, taking Stone on a tour of South America during the height of the pink-tide, showing him how socialism really could work outside the pages of political theory books. It depicts Chávez as he wanted to be remembered: a leader of the people who used Venezuela’s oil wealth to free Latin America from the grips of the evil gringos and capitalism.

Unfortunately, his opponents have never had the financial resources of the world’s biggest oil reserves at their hands, and didn’t create a counter-narrative to the one Chávez sold to the world and that his minions are still pushing today.

The details most people seem to remember about Chávez are his social programs and remarkable charisma not how he turned the richest country in Latin American into the worst crisis the continent faces today.

In line with most portraits of Chávez, the popular progressive American news site describes him as being “loved by the country’s poor and working classes” and opposed by “the elites and conservatives.”

While it’s true that many supported Chávez before his death, it’s primarily because the shit hadn’t completely hit the fan yet.

While it’s true that many supported Chávez before his death, it’s primarily because the shit hadn’t completely hit the fan yet, and high oil prices allowed him to keep a steady flow of handouts to the increasingly hungry masses.

Yes, Chávez still pulled huge crowds to his public appearances, and yes, he was a charismatic guy who knew how to reach the hearts of Venezuelans. But elections in Venezuela have been unfair at best and fraudulent at worst since as early as 2004, and given the massive protests and dissent he faced throughout his presidency, it’s impossible to quantify just how popular he really was.

From his first day in Miraflores, Chávez used the nation’s economic resources to fund his political machine, immediately increasing his control of PDVSA  a move that would kickstart the rapid demise of the oil company that can’t meet production goals today.

By 2004, Chavez’s political foes such as Henrique Capriles Radonski were already being incarcerated and government employees who voted for his recall were being persecuted.

Still, every time he was re-elected by the biased CNE, the world acknowledged his win and framed him as a democratically-elected leader. Incredibly, it wasn’t until this year’s sham elections that the chavista regime was officially seen as illegitimate by the international community.

Only after decades of abuses by the Executive Branch has the world finally given Maduro the title of dictator his predecessor by definitionalso deserved.

More important than how the international community sees Chávez’s legacy, however, is how we Venezuelans see it, and how we learn from history in order to not repeat it.

Chavez’s image as a socialist hero is pushed by those who have jumped the sinking chavismo boat.

Chavez’s image as a socialist hero is pushed by those who have jumped the sinking chavismo boat and are now going around the world proclaiming the dangerous idea that their supreme leader was good and the real problem is Maduro.

Rafael Ramírez, the former PDVSA chief who presided over its destruction and recently left Venezuela when the thugs turned on him, told the BBC that Maduro was “dismantling everything Chavez achieved”. He added that the current government is “sliding rapidly into authoritarianism, which has nothing to do with Chávez”.

Then there’s Luisa Ortega Díaz, who has pulled the biggest pivot in Venezuelan history by going from chief oppressor to alleged freedom-fighter. Last year, when the unconstitutional Constituent Assembly was formed, Ortega’s main argument against it was that such a move would “threaten Chávez’s legacy”.

“Those opposed to the assembly are called traitors, fascists, terrorists we cannot live in a country like that,” one of Chávez’s main players told Reuters.

Maybe Ramírez and Ortega were blinded by the wealth and protection they enjoyed at the expense of Venezuela’s well-being when they lived there, because dissidents have not only been insulted since Chávez took power, but have also been jailed, exiled and even killed.

Ortega, with the support of the “official opposition”, has continued to travel the world as the legitimate Prosecutor General of Venezuela and telling the story of how Maduro turned the benevolent Bolivarian revolution into a dictatorship.

Dissidents have not only been insulted since Chávez took power, but have also been jailed, exiled and even killed.

Of course, for characters who have played significant roles in wrecking Venezuela but left during the Maduro years, protecting Chávez’s legacy means protecting their own when justice comes knocking on their door.

Yet the truth is that Maduro has continued Chávez’s legacy in a way that would make his former boss proud, using a system of inherited kleptocracy to stay in power no matter the cost, which was also Chávez’s main objective.

After the attempted coup against him in 2001, Chávez focused on crushing all dissent and creating the current system, where anyone who opposes the regime faces political persecution and those who protect it are rewarded with wealth and power.

While preaching about Venezuelan sovereignty and railing against imperialism, Chávez handed the country over to Cuba in exchange for the effective Castro-Communist manual in how to rule forever.

He armed criminals to attack and intimidate protestors, forming the “Bolivarian Circles”, pro-government militias that would eventually evolve into the colectivos that have assassinated hundreds of young protesters.

Always true to character, Chávez’s final act once he knew his days were numbered was instructing the nation to elect his most-trusted man to continue his reign of terror.

Maduro can’t be separated from Chávez’s legacy because he is Chávez’s legacy.

Maduro can’t be separated from Chávez’s legacy because he is Chávez’s legacy.

What was left after fourteen years of Chávez was a narco-state with non-existing institutions, virtually no independent media, and a severely beaten-down opposition that has allowed an extremely unpopular dictator to stay in power.

Given that the regime has redesigned Venezuelan culture and education around propaganda that shows him as a heavenly savior, one must wonder who the children of Venezuela will blame for the tragedy they’re growing up in. In the current age of fake news, it’s important that we understand how Venezuela got to this point, and who led the way.

Chávez’s true legacy can be found in the children dying of hunger and searching trash for food across Venezuela, in the thousands who have died while fighting for their freedom on the streets or simply by stepping outside their homes, the millions leaving all they care about for a chance at survival, and the ruins of a country that once was.

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  1. Germania,
    An excellent article.
    You could have added a few things, possibly – destruction of domestic production capacity via exchange and currency controls, kleptocracy, nepotism, massive increase in violent crime, funding of left-wing politicians outside Venezuela, erosion of freedom of the press, elimination of any independent government oversight, support for FARC, providing Hezbollah with Venezuelan documentation etc.

    His best success was his PR.
    Many authors who really should know better continue to suggest that the present problems were caused by the fall in oil price (conveniently forgetting that many of the economic problems were clearly evident in 2008 and that present oil prices are four times higher than they were when Chavez took over). Chavez has already moved on from being a corrupt tinpot dictator/economic buffoon to being a legendary fighter for the poor and dispossessed. Facts are of little relevance to legends.

  2. Maybe we should catalogue his vices and virtues before looking at his legacy as a leader :
    Virtues :
    1. he gave a great many people who had felt betrayed belittled and disgraced by the political system that ruled them a sense of hope and dignity which they had never felt before and many material benefits which although temporary raised the quality of their lives in meaningful ways , he also voiced their resentments in a way that made them feel righteously enraged and important and belligerently proud and a collective identity ( The People) that they felt his rule empowered and which he personified glamorously and dramatically , in doing so he gave them an idol to love and an enemy to exultantly hate and blame for all the ills that life inflicted on them .
    2. He was politically shrewd and knew how to manipulate people to his advantage , was not overburdened with scruples that might have stood in the way of his personal goals and agendas. Additionally he practiced a form of politics that ultimately cornered his enemies and allowed them to lose any capacity to counter his moves and decisions while at the same time allowing him to pose as a superhuman heroe bent on the redemption of his ‘People’ , gained his regime a great deal of prestige internationally and an important influence in the international affairs of the continent
    3. Was an eloquent and effective public speaker and had the talents of gifted showman and entertainer and used those gifts to advance his personal and political agenda and those of his international sponsors and allies.
    4. he was able to destroy the institutional underpnnings of the system he wanted to destroy with guile , an artful display of deceit and patience.
    5. He changed for all time the countries perception of the need to prioritize attending to the needs and wishes and concerns of the least favoured component of its population .
    These I think were his main virtues , his vices I will refer to later ( with Im sure a lot of help from other participants in this blog) , if anyone wishes to add to the list he is welcome !!

    • Hello Bill!

      I would question calling your first enumerated item as virtue:

      “…he gave a great many people who had felt betrayed belittled and disgraced by the political system that ruled them a sense of hope and dignity which they had never felt before…”

      This reconciliation of the poor of Venezuela with the dictatorship Chavez created follows the archetype identified by Rene Girard, it is called the scapegoat mechanism. In the case of Chavez he designated the middle class and above, escualidos, as the scapegoat to which all the anger, violence and frustration must be unleashed. This action reconciles the aggressors in a strong, self righteous bond.

      This is so patent when you read through Aporrea and evaluate the history and current state of the opposition. The opposition is feckless because they have no draw with the poor. They are the scapegoat for all their resentment, and ultimately, envy.

      Let us not forget that whenever people protested they never marched out of Catia or El Valle, siempre el Este.

      Aporreans will deride Maduro and also deride the traditional opposition in the same piece. They will romanticize Chavez and are unable to make the connection between the current disaster and him. That is why Ms. Rodriguez style of articles are so important (great work Germania! it is for articles like this that I support CC).

      The most ironic things is that all the doom predicted by los escualdios since Chavez took power, came to pass. Moreover, it is los escualidos that are the doctors, the engineers and all other people needed to keep a modern economy going, because an oil economy is squarely a modern and technological advanced endevour. It is this know-how strata that is leaving Venezuela by the thousands and Venezuela withers.

      And now the people starve and as long as Chavismo is in place they will continue to starve. And when Chavismo leaves they will still be much suffering while Venezuela climbs out of the crater they let their country crash into. I cannot but think of the story in the Pentateuch by where the people of Israel wondered 40 years in the dessert to purify their wicked ways before entering the promised land.

      • I don’t think what Bill Bass wrote conflicts with your statement about Chavez’ polarizing rhetoric against “elites”. One of the ways a leader can make people feel validated is to foment sectarianism, tribalism and scapegoating. That characteristic distinguishes great popular leaders like say, Nelson Mandela, from demagogues like Chavez.

    • The vast numbers of middle class who first voted for him didn’t feel “betrayed, belittled and disgraced.” And they’re the ones who really decided that election.

      This is the still unexplainable “Y” factor in Chavez’s success, something which still hasn’t been discussed. I don’t think anyone has even come close to dancing near this issue.

      Why did the successful middle class…like my smart nephew, an accounting supervisor at Exxon-Mobil…vote for him?

      I never fully grilled him on it, because he was embarrassed about his decision a short time later. But the next time we talk, I just have to “go there” with him on this.

        • But mine did:

          Lowest unemployment in decades, largest GDP increases, strongest military ever, lowest taxes, more sensible immigration policies, fairer trade practices, and the comeback of American manufacturing.

          What’s that shmuck of yours doing for Canada?

          Buying new socks and wearing an Indian headdress?

      • Ira,
        I don’t think there is any mystery about this. As I have written before, Chavez’s true agenda was largely an unknown in 1999. If you check back, you will find that he did not use the word socialist to describe his policies (in fact he denied being a socialist in one broadcast) and he described Cuba as a dictatorship. What he promised was an end to corruption, a level playing field for businesses, respect for the rule of law and a fairer distribution of the nation’s wealth. Most importantly of all, he promised an end to the corrupt nepotistic revolving-door politics of the established political parties – since he arrived with no baggage. You have to recall that Venezuela was under major economic stress – still reeling from the aftershocks of the collapse of Banco Latino in 1994, inflation, devaluation, failing exchange control (and associated corruption) and oil price which dipped to $11/bbl in 1998/1999.
        I had heard Chavez speaking not just “en la calle” but also in a meeting for businessmen set up in the French embassy, where he quoted Voltaire and offered reassurances about his intentions with respect to businesses. His speech was moderate and very different in tone from what I had previously heard – typical behaviour from an untrustworthy populist politician I thought to myself.
        I recall speaking to my brother-in-law, a successful and productive businessman, and was surprised when he said in 1998 that he was going to vote for Chavez. When I offered my opinion that he was a dangerously unpredictable populist, my brother-in-law responded by saying “You may be right, but look at what we have now. IT CAN’T POSSIBLY GET ANY WORSE.”

        • When he had yet to become a presidential candidate, he made a trip to visit Castro in Cuba where he was recieved to great acclaim by the local authorities, his reception ( and the speech he gave in that reception) was filmed . A friend of mine got a copy of that film and passed it on to me, It was obvious from his speech that whatever he was saying in Venezuela he was a convinced follower of Castros ideas…….with all that meant …If I had any doubts about the guy they dissapeared on hearing his speech ………I figured it would take time for him to show his true colours , but that eventually the direction he was heading towards was the establishment of a Castro style regime in Venezuela ……, it took him more time than I expected , didnt know how far that would bring the total ruin of Venezuela , Castro in a speech made during a visit to Venezuelas congress said that he now believed that socialism could be built in Venezuela without affecting the countrys welfare ……, in the end that didnt happen , but it might have, had the regime installed by Chavez had the restraint and basic competence of those regimes that while following the revolutionary line were more careful in the management of their economy (Bolivia , Ecuador, Nicaragua) . I never trusted his speech , there was something phony that I could detect in all he claimed to be or want for Venezuela …..

      • The so-called middle-class put Chavez on power for the eternity. This simply backfired. The elites still live from the ”carroña”

        The party is ending

  3. Excellent article and a reference to point to for the so many still misinformed progressives not in direct contact with Venezuelan realities..
    It still could be developed to describe Chavez tragic legacy in more detail. The complete dismantling of the education system and public services falls short in terms of horror compared to the destruction of the social fabric and extinguishing all hope for the youth

  4. Yes, history will absolve Chavez just as it has Lenin, Mao, Castro and a host of others as long as historians cling to the utopianism of communism despite its uninterrupted legacy of dismal failure. Love it or hate it, it just does not work.

  5. “The reduction of poverty and increase of access to health care and education were temporary…”

    Even this gives Chavez too much credit, because in the same time frame, Chile’s and Peru’s statistics improved more than Venezuela’s, without an oil industry and without a “socialist revolution”.

    As for Chavez’s place in history, that is hard to predict. I do know that far worse tyrants from history than Chavez have been resurrected as heros. Timur of Central Asia is reponsible for about 17 million deaths (cerca 14th century). Today in the main plaza of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Timur’s statue sits where it replaced the statue of Stalin.

    • venezuela`s statistics never truly improved. That`s the thing with statistics, they can be easily manipulated.

      You simply lower the bar and in an instant millions of poor people are now middle class! chavismo always used similar tactics. If someone can write their name he is not an analfabet, 100% analfabetism free country confirmed! if someone has a roof he is not homeless right? no matter if he lives in a fucking shanty town and so on , so on.

      Its really telling that each country has its own misery index with different standards. A low income family in California would still make more than 100k a year. In Venezuela 100$ a month was considered middle upper class. Poverty erradicated!

    • Poverty, shomoverty
      “The reduction of poverty and increase of access to health care and education were temporary…”
      Even this gives Chavez too much credit, because in the same time frame, Chile’s and Peru’s statistics improved more than Venezuela’s, without an oil industry and without a “socialist revolution”.

      Those who trumpet Chavista poverty reduction when El Finado was still with us neglect the fact that Venezuelan poverty statistics have jumped all over the place in the last 20 years.
      Venezuela: Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines (% of population)
      1997 55.6
      1998 49
      1999 42.8
      2000 41.6
      2001 31.1
      2002 41.1
      2003 54
      2004 53.1
      2005 42.4
      2006 33.1
      2007 27.5
      2008 27.7
      2009 26.4
      2010 26.8
      2011 27.4
      2012 27.2
      2013 29.4
      2014 29.5
      2015 33.1

      Note that there is a reduction of 24.4% from 1997-2001, and a reduction of 26.5% from 2003-2007. The extreme variation in these statistics would inform most of us that poverty statistics are to be taken with a grain- or even a kilo- of salt. For that reason, let us take a ten-year period of Chavismo- and the best one at that, and compare how other Latin American countries fared in reducing poverty in a ten year period.

      Country Poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines (% of population Year 0 Year 10
      Bolivia (2004-2014) 63.1 39.1
      Brazil (2003-2013) 24.9 8.9
      Chile (2006-2015) 29.1 11.7
      Colombia (2004-2014) 47.4 28.5
      Ecuador (2000-2010) 64.4 32.8
      Nicaragua (2005-2014) 48.3 29.6
      Nicaragua (2005-2016) 48.3 24.9
      Panama (2006-2016) 38.3 22.1
      Paraguay (2002-2012) 57.7 31.4
      Peru (2004-2014) 58.7 22.7
      Uruguay (2006-2016) 32.5 9.4
      Venezuela, RB (2003-2013) 54 29.4

      We find the following 10 year reductions in poverty. When the period is not 10 years, it is so noted.
      Country 10 year Reduction in Poverty
      Bolivia 24 %
      Brazil 16 %
      Chile 9 yr 17.4%
      Colombia 18.9 %
      Ecuador 31.6 %
      Nicaragua 9 yr 18.7 %
      Nicaragua 11 yr 23.4 %
      Panama 16.2 %
      Paraguay 26.3 %
      Peru 36 %
      Uruguay 23.1 %
      Venezuela, RB 24.6 %

      The conclusion is that in terms of poverty reduction, Chavista Venezuela’s accomplishment , when still in the oil price bonanza, was not exceptional in Latin America.
      As a further example of the extreme variability of poverty statistics- which tends to cast doubt on their reliability- consider the following 10- year poverty reductions for Venezuela
      2003-2013 24.6%
      2005-2015 8.9%

    • A further point about Chavista poverty reduction was that, in contrast to other countries in Latin America, Chavista poverty reduction was based more on distributing money than on economic growth. I will look at overall economic growth from 1998, the year Venezuelan oil sold for ~$11/BBL and El Finado was elected, to 2013, the year El Finado ceased governing and Venezuelan oil sold for ~$100/BBL. This will give a long term view.
      Another reason for using a long term view is the extreme year-to-year variability in Venezuela’s economic performance from 1998-2013.

      We see that Chavista Venezuela’s economic growth was abysmal to compared to the above countries used in comparing poverty reduction.

      GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $), % increase from 1998-2013
      Panama 87.1%
      Peru 76.5%
      Chile 57.2%
      Nicaragua 44.3%
      Colombia 43.8%
      Uruguay 42.7%
      Brazil 37.8%
      Bolivia 36.8%
      Ecuador 33.9%
      Paraguay 25.0%
      Venezuela, RB 15.0%

      Which suggests why Venezuela’s poverty reduction figures were not sustainable- they weren’t backed by solid economic growth.

      • Don’t be stupid. He had friends in the WorldBank, namely in the IDB. The stats for Venezuela used the official ROE. Even the Financial Times kept 10 Bs/USD until around 2014!!!

        • DON’T BE STUPID
          Before I reply, I will go to the World Bank site to indicate what data there is on per GDP capita income for Venezuela.

          World Bank: VenezuelaType in “gdp per” in the Search Data box.

          From this search, one can find the following:
          GDP per capita, PPP (current international $)
          1998 11,724
          2013 18,281

          GDP per capita (current US$)
          1998 3,785
          2013 12,237

          GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $)
          1998 15,360
          2013 17,665

          GDP per capita (constant LCU)
          1998 1785
          2013 2053

          Warning: it may be faster to download the data instead of waiting for the chart to fill- it was for me. In addition, you will probably have to refer to the link for each additional indicator- at least I did.

          GDP per capita, PPP (current international $) shows an increase of 55%, which is roughly 15% internal per capita growth- local inflation taken out- plus international inflation of ~3% per year. As this shows inflation, this is not a valid measure .
          GDP per capita (current US$) shows a whopping increase, from $3785 to $12,237. This reflects both internal inflation, exchange rate variations (enormous in Venezuela w official and black market) and international inflation. You were probably referring to GDP per capita in current dollars when you wrote this:
          He had friends in the WorldBank, namely in the IDB.The stats for Venezuela used the official ROE. Even the Financial Times kept 10 Bs/USD until around 2014!!!
          The World Bank uses data which the respective governments send them- not just Venezuela. Your Don’t be stupid remark indicates that you would be advised to read carefully before commenting. While your point about “GDP per capita in current dollars” is well taken, I didn’t use that indicator. ( IOW, you are telling me “Don’t be stupid ” for doing something I didn’t do- using current dollars for per capita growth. You need to read more carefully.)

          GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $), which is the one I used in the above comment, shows an increase of 15% in per capita income from 1998-2013- an increase much smaller than the above measures.

          GDP per capita (constant LCU)– which would be measured in constant Bolivaries, also shows an increase of 15%. . Note that Venezuela’s Central Bank, at least through 2013, had the same data for GDP per capita- both current and constant- that the World Bank has- data which damns the Chavista economy.

          Venezuela has sent the World Bank little or no economic data after 2014. One needs to go to the IMF for that.
          While the Chavista government hasn’t sent economic data to the World Bank after 2014- better to say nothing than to be caught in a bald-faced lie- it has sent false data on Infant Mortality. According to the World Bank, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality declined from 2005 to 2016. But CC readers know that the Health Ministry released data last year that showed an increase of 30% in Infant Mortality from 2015 to 2016.

  6. he weaponized tierrudos and marginals and build up a fake narrative for clueless spoiled angsty teens abroad to swallow.

    No, he wont be absolved, but leftists will continue believing he did, just as with Mao or Lenin

  7. He may be remembered as the last gasp of a moribund ideology, but if Chavez was a bona fide communist, he failed in making Venezuela a communist country. Having all the power to do so, that wasn’t his main concern.

    I think he is better understood as being on the forefront of a more recent resurgence in illiberal, demagogic, personalist cults, whose ideological leanings are more opportunistic than genuine (like a late life conversion to Jesus). Complete with baseball caps, anti elitist rhetoric, non stop campaigning with el pueblo, Twitter account, and support of fellow autocrats.

    And like others in that category, his success was more a reflection of luck, timing, the arrogance and complacency of his opponents, and an inherited windfall to finance his ambitions, than of any particular genius.

    At root Chavez was just that recognizable type of llanero blabbermouth macho bullshitter, only driven by a particularly virulent narcissism, and lots of money.

      • Canucklehead is no longer your problem, MRubio but he he is for those countries desperstely attemptong to resist being drawn into the vortex of socialism. We see this phenomenon in the US. Democrats who cannot find work and or resent paying high taxes in so cslled Blue or Democrat states move to lower tax Red or Republican states! and immediately vote for the same measures thst caused them to leave the Blue stste originally.

    • “he failed in making Venezuela a communist country”


      bue seriously, you are a moron

    • @ Canucklehead There are so many problems with this comment, it is hard to know where to start.

      Firstly: Your analysis is a recipe for arrogance and complacency, ironic since you credit that for being responsible for Chavismo’s initial victory.

      So I’d argue that *Even if your analysis were completely true* it would be REALLY STUPID to train or prepare using it.

      Police training doesn’t involve assuming there’s one hostile sleeping off a Marijuana binge. Marine training does not assume the island they are going to attack features only a handful of disarmed dudes not even aware there is a War.

      Not because those situations are impossible, but because they are stupid. Crazier and stupider things have happened in reality* that does NOT mean you can count on them. You Cannot. In fact you should count on extremely difficult opposition and grueling tasks. That’s why it is best that you “Train Hard.”

      Assuming Chávez only won because of luck and the people he opposed being complacent is a bad working hypothesis.

      Secondly: Arguing that Chavez was not a Communist because he did not turn Venezuela into a Communist state is stupid, because EVERYBODY has failed in creating a communist country, bona fife Communist or not. Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, the Kims, Pol Pot, Che, everyoody.

      The problem is that there really never is enough power to turn a country into a literal Communist one (check the definition Marxists use). That’s why we look for other means, such as attempts to do so and stated ideological convictions. Chavez fits those, including a regurgitation of Marx’s old desire to abolish currency.

      Thirdly: the problem with linking Chávez to “illiberal, demagogic, personalist cults, whose ideological leanings are more opportunistic than genuine (like a late life conversion to Jesus). ” rather than Communism is

      Firstly, the alternative is vague and undefined as Heck. Which makes it incoherent. You haven’t come up with a good way to do it. Neither has Jacques.. Maybe somebody has, but since I’ve seen attempts to merge Islamist Erdogan with non-observant Christian (if we’re generous) Putin is torturous.

      Secondly, it’s much easier and more logical to link them by geography, time, and connection to Communism. Chavez’s initial conspiracy emerged against a milleiu of Communist plotters in Hispanic America during the second half of the century, fitting in well with the Neo-Zapatistas, the early FLSN, and so on. These groups and their leaders expressed affinity with the likes of the Castros, Soviets, and PRC (in order of declining relevance).

      And you can pretty easily examine and cross-check between them. And THAT Is what I advise we look at.

      Not vaguely defined paper tigers, but totalitarian Communist terror groups or regimes like the FLSN.

    • Communism? Venezuela has lived like communist China of modern days since 1958. Chavez understood that. You let people play money until you tell them not to. The power remains in the hands of the few. The opposition farse was put together to make possible some legitimacy.

  8. Even in “objective” news sources like the BBC, Venezuela’s downward slide was largely blamed on the decline in the oil price. Never, in those news squibs, did they mention that, when oil was at its highest price, Chavez was borrowing on Wall Street, and then turned (without transparency) to borrowing from the Chinese. His policies were never affordable – unless oil had really hit $200/barrel, as he fondly and stupidly hoped.

    Another factor which I think is insufficiently emphasized: as a pubic administrator, the man was totally incompetent. Not just misguided or unlucky, but plan darn stupid – which is why the passing support of Bernie Sanders, Ken Livingstone and other prominent people is so unforgivable: if you can’t spot an idiot in power, you are not qualified to claim public prominence for yourself in your subsequent career. In contrast, Morales in Bolivia has been smart enough to avoid the most asinine of Chavez’s policies.

  9. Great introductory article, please continue to submit them. I would be interested in a follow up that looked at the money spent on projects that were never completed and the loans taken out/dwindling of monetary reserves.

  10. Was shocked to see this article from WaPo criticizing socialism. The author will probably be fired on Monday!

    • The Washington Post has been publishing editorials denouncing the Maduro and the Chavez regime for many years. Not just op eds like this. It has also published consistently excellent reporting on Venezuela.

  11. Purported Chavista accomplishments were, for the most part, smoke and mirrors. For all the brouhaha about increased access to health care, the Health Missions, and all those Cuban physicians, the gold standards for measuring health care- Infant Mortality- and Life Expectancy indicated that improvements in health care under Chavismo were slightly below average compared to health care improvements in the rest of Latin America.
    From 1998 to 2013, Venezuela’s rank in Life Expectancy in Latin America went from 9th to 12th.
    From 1998 to 2013, Venezuela’s rank in Infant Mortality in Latin America went from 6th to 10th. (Peru, Mexico, El Salvador and Colombia jumped ahead of Venezuela in Infant Mortality rank)

    This was when the price of Venezuelan oil went from ~$11/BBL in 1998 to ~$100/BBL in 2013.
    Lesson: throwing a lot of money at something doesn’t necessarily solve a problem. All Chavismo did was throw money around- a lot of which ended up in the pockets of the enchufados.

    World Bank: World Development Indicators

  12. Holy Sh*t!!!

    An article that actually points out the obvious truth and puts blame where it belongs?

    And posted on CC?

    And doesn’t blame the filthy gringos, but the complicit Marxist fanboys in Hollywood?

    Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

  13. “Maduro can’t be separated from Chávez’s legacy because he is Chávez’s legacy.”

    This should be one of the most important truths to be taught at the obligatory public basic education in the post-cubazuela-colony era, and not only in schools, but also broadcasted 24/7 through all media (enforced by law under threat of taking concessions and permits and hefty fines) while methodically banning every single chabizta bulls**t latrine to stop them from spreading their lies.

    People who’s expecting some “hand-holding-democracy where everybody’s happy because that won’t leave chabizmo an excuse to become a farc-like cartel killing people for the next 50 years” has to get off that cloud.

  14. Excelente article!
    I’m getting tired of explaining the crisis didn’t start with fall of the oil prices and that Chavez was a goddamned sob.
    Will send this to my foreign friends.
    Kudos Germania! Please keep coming back.

  15. This is a great article. I say this from a center-left perspective. In line with the best of the CC I first came across in 2011.

  16. Poverty reduction? You all believe in that crap. I traveled to Venezuela once or twice a year from 1998 to 2012. I never saw the progress of any kind, no infrastructure, no new schools or hospitals, universities degrade to Zimbabwe levels. Etc. Germania wrote her romanticized version to sanctify the troglodytes. When she says the Stone directed marvelously a movie, knowing in advance that this is a self-declared selfish communist of Hollywood she said all I needed to know. Go have a life Germania

  17. Besides, how can you all believe in those manipulated stats? For Venezuela, in particular, the WorldBank used the official exchange rate. Not the real one running the parallel market. This mechanical distortion with the blessing of WorldBank, IMF and notable news magazines like the Economist made that farse continue and many of you believe it!!! Incredible. Then this enchufada self-proclaimed newyorker and mayamera has the ”toupée” to write this stupid piece of crap in favor of Chavez. You want more details, please challenge. Thanks

  18. The greatest threat to democracy today lies in the population’s complete ignorance of basic economics. It is a broad, worldwide problem, but nowhere as bad as in Venezuela. This is what allowed a leader like Chavez to push the budget deficit to its limits with unsustainable spending, to funnel off PDVSA’s oil exploration and investment budget into reckless “social programmes” while oil production collapsed. It allowed him to nationalize properties for a short term looting of assets. And it allowed the printing presses to be used as a piggy bank for the government’s budget shortfall, which leads to hyperinflation in the medium term, as everybody with basic knowledge of Econ 101 knows.

    This way, eating away a country’s savings to provide a short-term, ethereal illusion of “prosperity”, (and helped by booming oil prices and weak institutions) a populist leader can gain a temporary boost in his popularity while bankrupting and destroying his country.

    It is troubling, that even as Venezuela has collapsed into a failed state, many of its people refuse to see what has happened – All they can see is that with Chavez they lived better than with Maduro, completely oblivious to the swindle.

    Chavismo was lucky that its creator died before he could pay for his crimes, before the tide of lower oil prices left exposed the rickety foundations his looting of Venezuela was built upon.

    If democracy ever returns to Venezuela, the first order of the day should be the mandatory education of economics in high schools throughout the country. An informed citizenry is a vigilant citizenry, which makes it harder for snake oil salesmen to siphon away their prosperity for short term personal gain. A lesson for Venezuela but also for the entire world.


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