Thursday, March 07, 2013

Everyone Loves a Dictator

The press coverage of the death of Hugo Chavez is interesting. I've seen stories about grieving thousands and his outrageous statements. Some coverage has mentioned that he created a fund for helping low-income families in the US pay for heating oil (without mentioning how insignificant this fund is). Many stories mention his work for the poor.

Several celebrities mourned him. These include Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Roseanne Barr, and Michael Moore.

Several things have not been mentioned. Chavez tried to overthrow the elected government in 1992 and was arrested. He was later pardoned and was elected president in 1998. He also formed an alliance with Fidel Castro. Once in power, he rewrote the constitution and nationalized oil production. He attempted to pass a law that would have required schools to teach pro-Bolivian propaganda (his party was the Bolivian party).

Over time, Chavez moved further to the left. He financed the Columbian guerrilla movement FARC which was known for violence and kidnapping. He had close ties with Iran and other anti-US governments. He insisted that al Qaeda was a fictional creation of the US. His government also engaged in antisemitism.

Under his rule, Venezuela has suffered from high inflation and crime. The murder rate increased by 300%-400% during his administration. There were food shortages. Chavez responded by nationalizing food production and farm land and by putting ceilings on food prices. Predictably, this compounded the shortages.

Human rights under Chavez were criticized by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Organization of American States. Reporters Without Borders accused Chavez of silencing critics. The country's largest cable TV company was taken off the air for having supported the opposition.

When Chavaz was diagnosed with cancer he insisted that the US caused it. This charge was repeated by his successor who expelled two American diplomats after Chavez's death.

Chavez's hand-picked successor took charge instead of the official named by their constitution. This has led to charges that the Cubans are now in control of Venezuela.

So, why has so little of this been mentioned? Because many people, especially on the left, admire Chavez's policies and wish that President Obama had used Chavez as a model for reforming the US.

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