07 March, 2013


It is odd for us seeing the broken, sobbing emotion in Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chavez. For us, the death of a politician marks either sober reflection or joy; no one would care much if we lost Cameron or Milliband, just as the idea of Hollande or Sarkozy falling under a bus would leave France little more than pensive.

Chavez was not, as some commentators like to suggest, either a communist or a dictator. He was a Peronist, a populist with the knack of persuading the poor they are doing better. The oil price rose during his presidency from not much more than $1 to over $100 and the money was blown on this or that programme; much of it stuck to his friends' or his ministers' fingers. Venezuela is no more an organised, viable state than it was in 1999: it is just as corrupt, just as inefficient and even more dependent on oil. A falling of the oil price would mean poverty, even hunger, for the lower classes.

Chavez will be remembered in Venezuela as a saint, in America as a bogeyman and in the rest of the world as just another south American generalissimo.

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