Hugo Chavez- probably smelling sulfur right nowLess than a month after his return from unsuccessfully undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba, Venezuela's government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday.
News of Chavez's death was met with condolences and considerable sorrow from American leftists such as actor Sean Penn, former US president Jimmy Carter and filmmakers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone. Interestingly, while much of the US Media is giving Chavez a pass on his authoritarian rule and making no mention of his dubious allies- including the late Mummar Ghdaffi- the US chapter of his fan club has already started whining about how Chavez's legacy isn't being treated fairly by the 'corporate media'.
Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned. 2/2
— Oliver Stone (@TheOliverStone) March 6, 2013
Longtime ally and Bolivian president Evo Morales reportedly stopped by Caracas on his way to the United Nations to visit Chavez in late February- just days after Chavez's return from Cuba- but was turned away by medical staff.
The populist and virulently anti-American socialist president ruled Venezuela for nearly 14 years while allying himself with Russia, China, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iran's ruling Islamic clerics and socialist leaders throughout Latin America. While Chavez positioned himself as a champion of the poor and a bulwark against 'Yankee imperialsim' in Latin America, violent crime and inflation in Venezuela skyrocketed while the Chavez family used a subordinate media and state apparatuses to harass and intimidate political opponents. Venezuela's relatively small Jewish community was also subject to frequent anti-Semitic attacks in the later years of Chavez's Presidency.
As inflation in Venezuela reached as high as 30%, Chavez's family allegedly amassed a fortune worth $2 Billion and his regime seized or expropriated as many as 1168 different privately run companies throughout Venezuela. His family was particularly influential in the western state of Barinas, where both his father and elder brother served as governor and another brother was the mayor the city of Sabaneta.
Politicians once loyal to the president who have broken with him and his family here contend that Mr. Chávez’s family has amassed wealth and landholdings through a series of deals carried out by front men.In addition to allying himself with socialist governments throughout Latin America, Chavez also aligned Venezuela with Islamist regimes and militias throughout the Middle East- even facilitating their presence at bases in Venezuela or allied nations such as Nicaragua.
One opposition leader, Wilmer Azuaje, detailed to prosecutors and legislators what he said was more than $20 million in illegal gains by the family since the president’s father was elected governor in 1998. But in a brief review of those claims, National Assembly, under the control of Chávez loyalists, cleared the family of charges of illicit enrichment.
“In the meantime, while the family wraps itself in the rhetoric of socialism, we are descending into a neo-capitalist chaos where all that matters is money,” said Alberto Santelíz, the publisher of La Prensa, a small opposition newspaper.
More than a decade into the Chávez family’s rule in Barinas, the state remains Venezuela’s poorest, with average monthly household income of about $800, according to the National Statistics Institute. Kidnapping, once feared only by the wealthy, has spread in Barinas to include the poor. In one case this year of a 3-year-old girl kidnapped in the slum of Mi Jardín, the abductor, when told that the only thing of value owned by the girl’s mother was a refrigerator, instructed her to sell it to pay the ransom.
Last year, a former Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice fled the country and was talking with the DEA on how the Chavez regime allegedly provided arms to FARC Guerrillas in neighboring Colombia and uses Venezuelan soil as a staging are for illicit cocaine flights to North America and Europe. In 2009, Chavez threatened to go to war with neighboring Colombia after a cross-border raid by the Colombian military on FARC encampments in Ecuador uncovered documents highlighting direct aid to the communist guerrillas from Caracas- a charge that Chavez had vehemently denied.
Chavez also sided with Syria's Bashr Al-Assad when he began his crackdown against anti-government demonstrators by providing the Assad regime with tankers full of diesel fuel beginning in June 2012.
Venezuelan government officials won't list the official cause of death, but it was reported in the 24 hours before his passing that Chavez was having difficulty breathing. Not to be outdone by his predecessor in the cray-cray department, Venezuela's Vice president Maduro took to the state-controlled TV network to accuse the USA of poisoning Chavez and expelled two US officials from the country.
According to Venezuela's foreign minister, a special election will be held within 30 days per Venezuela's constitution. Maduro- a former bus driver, union leader and legislator is expected to be challenged by center-right governor of Miranda Henrique Capriles. During last year's Presidential elections, Capriles was labelled a 'Zionist agent' by the state run media.
A number of the 189,000 Venezuelans living in the United States had expressed hope that Venezuela could return to free multiparty system with Chavez's death.