Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, has died. He was 58 years old. Chavez had been treated in Cuba, a country with which he was closely allied. Since his return from Cuba, Chavez was isolated in a military hospital. Official communiqués reported that he was having breathing problems but was well enough to run the affairs of state. Chavez’s muzzled state press had condemned reports that Chavez had died or was at death’s door.
Chavez, who dominated Venezuelan politics for almost a decade and a
half, combined policies of communal socialism, populism, patronage,
nationalization, and virulent anti-Americanism. Chavez named his
policies the Bolivar Revolution, but they entered the vernacular as
“Chavismo.” In foreign policy, he created a bloc of leftist Latin
American states united by virulent anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism.
Chavez used the media and populist policies, subsidies, patronage,
corruption, and direct distribution to the poor to defeat his middle
class and business opposition in three elections. He was known to hold
forth in marathon TV conversations with the Venezuelan people. Chavez’s
people populated Venezuela’s poor barrios. They idolized the at times
clownish figure Chavez cut in his red beret and red-white-blue
jumpsuits. He likened George Bush to the devil in a bizarre speech to
the United Nations General Assembly. His antics played well to his
political base at home and to anti-American forces abroad.
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