Outrageous leftist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was a colorful and flamboyant figure that was a real thorn in the side of the U.S. on one hand, but on the other hand, the U.S. was also Venezuela’s largest oil customer, only helping to prop up the government of Chavez. It was part of the paradox of the two, that Chavez was such a strong critic of the U.S. on one hand, although the U.S. would only help to prop up the regime of Chavez with billions of dollars.
Chavez might have been a friend of nearly every rotten regime in the world, including Cuba, Iran, Syria and other states with dismal human rights records as well as other civil liberties abuses, yet Chavez was elected president and remained in power for nearly 14 years due to his nationalistic attitudes he fostered among his countrymen, and his own successes as a strong armed political leader able to change people’s lives for the better. Gasoline is just around 19cents a gallon in Venezuela, state-run food programs to eliminate hunger are now commonplace, free health care clinics bring medicine to most persons. Public housing makes a place to live cheap and affordable and a free education is available to more persons than ever in the once very poor nation. Chavez has been able to take many of socialist ideals of Cuba which have never been fully realized and make these a reality along with many economic reforms.
Much like his idol, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez was also a fine baseball player, but both turned to champion leftist politics, with Venezuela able to use their immense oil wealth to achieve many successful social safety net programs without really building up investment or business growth in the country. Cuba, on the other hand has been able to achieve very little business investment or well funded social programs because of little wealth to spend to improve the country. Venezuela’s big advantage was always their biggest natural resource, huge reserves of oil.
Chavez developed cancer recently, and had unsuccessful surgery in Cuba in an attempt to save his life, although Cuban hospitals tended to be poorly stocked with equipment and drugs. This apparently cost Chavez his life. He died today at the age of 58.
What will life be like without Chavez? Will the new government moderate their views toward the U.S. and support for the worst regimes in the world? Will socialist reforms that better the life of those in Venezuela continue, but can business community growth and investment also be a home in an economy like this as well? This country provides many social goods, but fails to really build a true strong economy by failing to attract this business investment and growth.
To most Americans, Hugo Chavez was just crazy. But, to most who live in Venezuela, he was crazy like a fox and one of the best political leaders of their lifetime, making life a lot better for many in his country. Most people in both nations won’t ever see eye to eye on this outrageous political leader. But, he made a difference at home, and that’s probably all that counts to his countrymen.