CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) President Hugo Chavez was a fighter. The former paratroop commander and fiery populist waged continual battle for his socialist ideals and outsmarted his rivals time and again, defeating a coup attempt, winning re-election three times and using his country's vast oil wealth to his political advantage.
The entire article reads as a eulogy written by the state-run media.
Hugo Chavez Frias was not a dictator, a semantic point to which his supporters devoted much argument, but he was most assuredly not a democrat. Having burst onto the Venezuelan political scene in 1992 as the leader of a failed military coup, he would later reposition himself as a champion of the ballot box, though one without much concern for the niceties of democracy. In the early days of Chavismo, despite his golpista background, Chavez commanded support from beyond the barrios, but his popularity waned significantly as he consolidated power by shuttering opposition media, rewriting the constitution, and expanding the supreme court. As his rule become more arbitrary and power centralized, thousands fled into exile. He won elections in conditions that, had they taken place in this country, would likely provoke revolution (and, in 2002, actually did in Venezuela). Chavez took his semi-democratic mandate as licence to rule undemocratically and rebuild state institutions, now staffed with loyal supporters.
The fatherland is a shambles,
Bolivarian socialism has failed,
and Comandante Chavez is dead.
Chavez presided over a political epoch flush with money and lorded over a society riven by fear, deep political divisions, and ultraviolence. Consider the latest crime statistics from Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia, which reckons that 2012 saw an astonishing 21,692 murders in the country—in a population of 29 million. Last year, I accompanied a Venezuelan journalist on his morning rounds at Caracas’s only morgue to count the previous night’s murders. As the number of dead ballooned, the Chavez regime simply stopped releasing murder statistics to the media.
All of this could have been predicted, and wasn’t particularly surprising from a president who believed that one must take the side of any enemy of the "empire." That Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe was a "freedom fighter," or that Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko presided over "a model of a social state." Saddam Hussein was a "brother," Bashar al-Assad had the "same political vision" as the Bolivarian revolutionaries in Venezuela. He saw in the madness of Col. Qaddafi an often overlooked "brilliance" ("I ask God to protect the life of our brother Muammar Gaddafi"). The brutal terrorist Carlos the Jackal, who praised the 9/11 attacks from his French jail cell, was "a good friend." He praised and supported the FARC, the terrorist organization operating in neighboring Colombia. The list is endless.
His was a poisonous influence on the region, one rah-rahed by radical fools who desired to see a thumb jammed in America’s eye, while not caring a lick for its effect on ordinary Venezuelans. In his terrific new book (fortuitously timed to publish this week) Comandante: Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, The Guardian’s Rory Carroll summed up the legacy of Chavez’s Venezuela as "a land of power cuts, broken escalators, shortages, queues, insecurity, bureaucracy, unreturned calls, unfilled holes, uncollected garbage." One could add to that list grinding poverty, massive corruption, censorship, and intimidation.
One final note: Whether or not he was fiery before, he likely is now.