Hugo Chávez was certainly far from perfect and he didn’t ultimately succeed in bringing about “21st century socialism”, but he was a mighty force against the many evils of 21st century oligarchy and will be sorely missed.
He was, of course, hated by the forces of status quo, from the fat oligarchs in Caracas to the corrupt media centered around the New York Times to the financiers on Wall Street to the halls of formal power in Washington. To them, Chávez was a Latin American populist playing a dangerous role in the rise of leftist anti-American governments throughout the region, especially in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. His influence was felt everywhere, from Mexico and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America, and the fear was that if some realistic version of 21st century socialism actually gained a true foothold in just one of these countries, the ramifications would be severe and global. He represented a clear and present danger to oligarchy and especially so sitting atop possibly the largest oil reserves in the world. He was a man with very powerful enemies.
Venezuelan Vice President and likely successor to Chávez, Nicolás Maduro claimed yesterday this was not a natural death – that Chávez was in fact murdered by agents of the United States. The charge will be ridiculed by most in the US as we find with this bit of sarcasm from the Washington Post, “Yes, the U.S. caused Chavez’s cancer, the Russian meteor, the bird flu, and the sinking of the Titanic”. But it shouldn’t be so readily dismissed. The poisoning of kings and leaders has an awful long history, after all, and the United States Government (USG) certainly had the motive. I’m not going to attempt to make a case here but we need to consider that we’re dealing with an overwhelmingly powerful actor with few historically demonstrated sensitivities to the niceties of fair play. Among other horrors, it dropped two nuclear bombs on two cities within a week murdering hundreds of thousands of people, ruthlessly attacked the poor peasant country of Vietnam, helped overthrow democracies in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and elsewhere, supported right wing dictatorships throughout Latin America, developed courses on how to assassinate opponents, created a “technology” decades ago capable of causing death by heart attack without evidence of foul play, tried on numerous occasions to assassinate Fidel Castro, supported the failed coup against Chávez, operates torture chambers throughout the world, and openly murders today those it deems its enemies via drone attacks and who knows what other means. It’s surely the case that Chávez was seen by those in power within the USG as a far greater threat than the “terrorists” it so routinely kills in the Middle East who carry little more than a rifle. The USG or individuals within it clearly warrant a high level of suspicion.
But that’s it for speculation, the fact is we simply don’t know and probably never will. What we do know, however, is that the poor for whom Chávez spoke have almost no power and those who seek to keep them in bondage are powerful indeed. The upcoming election in Venezuela and the future development of its politics have an extremely high level of global importance.