Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 9:38 AM

Chávez Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

0023ae606e6611d1f1830dMy socialist affinities are such that I used to be a big fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez:

His critics argue that Chávez is merely expropriating property in a Robert Mugabe-style land grab. (No doubt Mugabe is flattered by the allusion.) But Chávez has declared it a ‘war on the latifundio’ (or rich estate owners), casting himself as a latterday Robin Hood of the Amazon Forest.

(“Hugo Chávez Replaces Fidel Castro as America’s Foreign Enemy #1 in the Americas,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2005)

However, it did not take long before I began denouncing him as just another tin-pot dictator betraying the very socialist causes he championed. Here is an illustrative excerpt from “Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than One-Man Three Ring Circus,” September 7, 2006.

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Just a year ago, regional leaders were eager to implement Chávez’s socialist agenda. They seemed blithely unconcerned that doing so would defy the capitalist reforms President George W. Bush mandated for their sustainable development and, more important, for good relations with the United States…

But, as dynamic and appealing as Chávez’s socialist agenda seemed last year, it is moribund and fractious this year… Many regional leaders … failed to appreciate that it was Venezuela’s oil, not Chávez’s agenda, which allowed him to play Robin Hood to his country’s peasants and thumb his nose at the U.S…

Even I bought Chávez’s socialist rhetoric of empowering the poor throughout the region. But I soon realized that he was only interested in enlisting regional leaders to enable his paranoid delusions of grandeur. And that his agenda had more to do with undermining Bush’s presidency than helping poor countries, including his own, build sustainable economies.

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Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 7.34.02 AMIndeed, it was hardly surprising that poor Venezuelans were protesting against chronic privation within a year of his death in March 2013:

The poor neighbourhood of Petare in western Caracas is not an obvious hotbed of anti-government sentiment. In the past, its residents have been among the major beneficiaries of Venezuela’s public health and education campaigns, and an economic policy that resulted in one of the sharpest falls in inequality in the world.

But as demonstrations sweep several major cities, even the people of Petare have taken to the streets to protest again surging inflation, alarming murder rates and shortages of essential commodities.

(The Guardian, February 20, 2014)

Clearly the political conflict Chávez stirred in me pales in comparison with the economic misery he left among poor Venezuelans. Frankly, it was so clear to me that disillusionment among the poor would bedevil his legacy that I seized every opportunity, while he was still alive, to herald the socialist agendas of other regional leaders as far more worthy of commendation:

Like Bachelet [of Chile], Cristina [of Argentina] espouses political reconciliation, poverty alleviation, and a panoply of welfare programs, all of which appeal to my sensibilities. Therefore, I hope these women together can wrest the mantle of democratic socialism from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has turned out to be nothing more than a tin-pot dictator masquerading as a latter-day Robin Hood.

(“Argentina’s First Lady Poised to Steal Hillary’s Thunder,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 9, 20109)

Sadly, apropos of disillusionment, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is turning out to be every bit as corrupt as any male leader; just as “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher turned out to be every bit as heartless, when it came to the general welfare of poor Britons. But I digress….

18dd1_screen_shot_2015_08_06_at_2_13_16_pmNow comes word that, while implementing his give-them-fish policies, Chávez was presiding over a kleptocracy — whose members perverted the socialist creed by taking from the treasury according to his ability, and hoarding wealth according to his greed. Only this explains how Chávez was able to bequeath billions in misappropriated funds to his children.

The daughter of Hugo Chávez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

Maria Gabriela Chávez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2 billion, Diario las Americas reports…

Alejandro Andrade, who served as Venezuela’s treasury minister from 2007 to 2010 and was reportedly a close associate of Chávez, was discovered to have $11.2 billion in his name sitting in HSBC accounts in Switzerland, according to documents leaked by whistleblower Hervé Falciani….

(Daily Mail, August 11, 2015)

No doubt few Venezuelans appreciated that Chávez was a bigger crook than any drug lord who ever menaced Latin America. Yet he earned his rightful place in the rogue’s gallery of dead kleptomaniacs, which includes everyone from Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire/DR Congo and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Crime bosses like Al Capone and drug lords like Pablo Escobar had nothing on political dictators like these….

2206_largeIncidentally, this gallery is bound to include such notorious dictators as the Castros of Cuba, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Bashir al-Assad of Syria, and Vladimir Putin of Russia – whose misappropriation of public funds, as documented by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (April 19, 2012), has made him “the richest man in the world.”

[Putin’s] only reason for standing in solidarity with everyone from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia to Yanukovych of Ukraine is that he lives in mortal fear of popular uprisings of the sort that toppled them toppling him too. Period.

This is why he must’ve been a little unnerved yesterday when even pro-Russian Ukrainians were calling for Yanukovych’s head after they got a glimpse of the obscenely opulent, Louis-XVI lifestyle he was living at their expense. So just imagine what Putin’s peasant supporters in Russia would want to do to him if they were suddenly presented with clear and convincing evidence that he lives a lifestyle that’s a thousand times more extravagant than Yanukovych’s, having amassed billions in ill-gotten gains over the years as a KGB officer turn politician.

(“Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2014)

So let there be no shock and dismay when, like Chávez, these kleptomaniacs bequeath billions in misappropriated funds to their respective offspring.

In the meantime, his family and cronies have nothing to fear, so long as the man to whom he bequeathed the presidency, his crony in chief Nicolás Maduro, remains in office. But all bets are off, with respect to their ill-gotten fortunes and even their freedom, the minute any opposition leader assumes power.

Related commentaries:
Hugo replaces Fidel
Bolivia’s woes
Argentina’s first lady
Ukraine

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