All in all, I’ miss Hugo Chávez.
I didn’t always agree with his “Twenty-First Century Socialism” which was a curious blend of the spiritual teachings of the figure whose birth began the current count-up of centuries; the Latin American liberation hero of the Nineteenth Century, Simón Bolívar; and the leaders of the Twentieth Century Cuban Revolution that inspired many–including me–with the possibility of socialism without Stalinist deformation. It’s a mix not unlike the hydrogen peroxide fuels of early German rockets–powerful but inherently unstable. It needs further refinement.
It reflected the autodidactic progress of a soldier who abhorred the social injustice he saw around him and decided to do something about it. He became a revolutionist of action, borrowing and adapting ideas of others on the fly. He sometimes confounded and even embarrassed his admirers with flamboyant statements--but he was no blow-hard.
He backed up his talk with measures that brought improvements for the poor of his country and also contributed material solidarity to other countries. In particular, an internationalist symbiotic relationship blossomed with Cuba. The Cubans provided medical, educational and security professionals in short supply while Venezuela returned the favor with oil vitally needed because of the more than half-century embargo imposed by the USA on Cuba.
One way to judge a person’s life is the attitudes they continue to attract in death. Hugo is loved by the poor majority of his country. He will always be hated by Venezuela’s rich elite.
Our bipartisan rulers in Washington saw Chávez as a dangerous ally of Fidel. They made no secret of their desire to see him go–one way or another. They couldn’t embargo Venezuela–a major source of U.S. oil. They did promote political opposition and were prepared to recognize a coup attempt against Hugo–but that effort collapsed after two days. They are no doubt weighing options for skulduggery now.
Hugo’s immediate replacement–likely to be made permanent in a special election within 30 days–is not a charismatic soldier. Nicolas Maduro is a bus driver who became a leader of the transit union and socialist party. While his style may be different there’s no reason to suspect he will depart from the basic line of march in progress.
I offer my condolences to Hugo’s daughters and my solidarity to the working people of Venezuela and the new leader they choose.