March 6, 2013

Notes on Hugo Chavez

So Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has kicked. Not at all an expert on South American politics, but since when has that ever me from opining.

-First off, thanks to Chavez for illustrating what an actual Socialist looks like. His government seized all kinds of industries, oil, steel, and so on. He spent massive amounts of money on programs for the poor, built hospitals and schools and heaped all kinds of rhetorical abuse on capitalism. Obama hasn't done any of this. Obama is not a Socialist. Chavez is a Socialist.

-A good way to judge how someone stands on Chavez is to see what they call him. "Dictator" and "Strongman" seems to be the preferred title of the haters. His formal title was "President." He really was elected, so "dictator" seems an ill fit. But was pretty nasty in his suppression of opposition. I think we need a new category of leader (Putin in Russia is another) of guys who genuinely win elections, but cheat all the norms of democracy such a free press.

-On foreign policy, the funny thing about Chavez is that his famous antagonism was waged entirely at the level of rhetoric. He called W. "the devil" and railed against the US in general. But the US was Venezuela's main buyer of oil and still is, we were never going to draw guns on each other. Without all the bombast, Venezuela would join the large club of countries that just are, not allies, not enemies, just trading partners.

-The political scientist in me always finds Battles of Succession to be fascinating. Who rules? The chosen successor? Rivals within the movement? Long shut-out opposition?

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