Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died Tuesday at the age of 58, after a battle with cancer. We’ll discuss the controversial leader’s career and look at what lies ahead for Venezuela, the fourth-largest oil supplier to the United States and, under Chávez, a U.S. adversary. We will also consider the likely successor to Chávez and discuss whether his socialist and revolutionary agendas will continue after his death.

The Death and Legacy of Hugo Chávez 6 March,2013forum

Rory Carroll, South America correspondent for The Guardian
Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of history and Latin American studies specializing in Venezuela at Pomona College
Francisco Toro, author of "Blogging the Revolution: Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chavez Chronicles" and blogger for

  • Kotter

    The death of Chavez is a great loss. He was not perfect, but he stood up to the leaders of the US empire, i.e. to the thugs of Wall St and the Pentagon and the CIA, who would like nothing better than the grind the common people of Venezuela into a pulp figuratively or even literally if it would bring a profit or ensure the 1%’s power. Most countries today owe allegiance to the USA’s empire of debt, but to that system Chavez said no.

    • The fact that US foreign policy and imperial hubris has been so disastrous that even a corrupt, lunatic autocrat like Chávez can manipulate people into believing he is Their Savior with half-empty anti-imperialist rhetoric is no reason to portray him in rosy, “nobody’s-perfect” nonsense.

      • Chris OConnell

        How many free and fair elections does he have to win to not be labelled an autocrat? Although since you are calling him a corrupt lunatic as well, never mind.

        • thucy

          I think he’s calling Chavez an autocrat in the same way a lot of New Yorkers call Bloomberg an autocrat. He stifled reform. And to be fair, Chavez was corrupt. That said, he was a heck of a lot less destructive than the current last dozen or so US Presidents. Does that mean we have to lionize him? No. We can criticize, while appreciating what limited good he did accomplish.

          • Every single political leader in the history of humanity has accomplished some form of good, however limited. I don’t see the point in appreciating that though when their overall impact has been hard-core destructive.

          • thucy

            okay, good point, Alan, however, does that mean I can’t appreciate LBJ’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 cuz he upped the bombing in Vietnam? Ditto I can’t appreciate Nixon’s creation of the EPA, because of his destruction in Vietnam (and beyond?)

            Absolutes are tricky, I try to avoid them.

          • johnqeniac

            Good point. That’s exactly why you should not appreciate George Bush, as his overall impact has been hard-core destructive.

          • Chris OConnell

            In my opinion, they are just as wrong to label Bloomberg an autocrat or dictator as well and I would object to that as well.

          • johnqeniac

            The question is not whether we have to lionize him. The question is whether we have to reflexively demonize him in accordance with the wishes of the corporate controlled US gov. I like to make up my own mind rather than regurgitating official propaganda.

        • Fine. Maybe autocrat is not exactly the most adequate term, since it probably implies lack of electoral legitimation. *Authoritarian* is perhaps the right way to describe his immensely popular, yet corrupt, top-down and megalomaniac style of leadership.

      • Rodrigo Linares

        Elections may be free but they aren’t fair.

  • thucy

    The NYT just ran an analysis on Chavez ‘ legacy by William Neuman.

    Hard to categorize a guy who shifted shape so much, and hard to appreciate a guy who was too paranoid to pull in good managers for the infrastructure needs.

    On the other hand, Neuman makes the argument that Chavez’ real legacy is in changing how Venezuela’s poor see themselves. That’s something we in the US haven’t seen since Eleanor Roosevelt went storming around the country trying to personally empower as many Americans as she could lay hands on. Granted, Bobby Kennedy tried, but he got shot down like a Gracchae.

    I wonder if Chavez’ higher goal wasn’t doomed because, to effect any real progress for the poor, you need to be seriously knitted into the aristocracy.

    LBJ was also born miserably poor like Chavez, but his anti-poverty successes were built on his becoming – shrewdly and brutally – a Senate insider (infamously, “The Master of the Senate” who had dirt on every senator.)

    • PostLiberal

      :Granted, Bobby Kennedy tried, but he got shot down like a Gracchae.”

      RFK was not killed for supporting the poor. Sirhan Sirhan killed RFK for supporting Israel. Remember your history.

      • thucy

        Don’t worry, I don’t have a multiple shooter theory on RFK’s assassination, however, when two aristo bros who make moves toward creating a greater level of equality are BOTH shot down, then I think the Gracchae comparison is apt. Remember your history.

        • PostLiberal

          Remember your history: JFK was shot by a leftist who had also taken a pot-shot at right-wing General Edwin Walker, and who also had expressed support for Fidel Castro.If JFK was so much in favor of a “greater level of equality,” why did he reduce the tax rates for the top 1%? Sirhan Sirhan’s reasons for shooting RFK are well known: RFK’s support for Israel.

          • thucy

            Whoa – remember your history! You need to keep JFK’s tax reduction in perspective – top marginal tax rates were wIldly inflated when he came into office.

            What JFK did, rather timidly IMO, was move toward greater racial (and thereby economic) equality. And he was a huge symbol to ethnic immigrant families, whether Jewish, Catholic, whatever, for social mobility.

            Like a lot of Americans, I’m skeptical about the Warren Commission report, which your last comment rests on. (To quote Woody Allen’s 1964 stand-up routine on the Warren Commission Report, “At the time, I needed the money, because I was writing – I was working on a non-fiction version of the Warren Commission Report.”)

            RFK was more obviously a populist – a change that occurred largely after John was assassinated. But I’m hardly the only person to see a resemblance between the Graccchae and JFK/RFK, and you’ve done little to convince me otherwise.

      • Daniel Zilberman

        And of course Chavez was a super sized anti-Israel political activist (and therefore a hero of “progressive” left which always chooses to ignore facts on the ground in favor of ideology) and personally blatant anti-Semite and bigot. A true “hero”!

        • Chris OConnell

          You are confusing the right (“which always chooses to ignore facts on the ground in favor of ideology”) with the left. Here are some recent examples off the top of my head:
          * Global Warming
          * Solyndra
          * Obama’s Apology Tour
          * Chuck Hagel Hearings
          * Benghazi
          * Obama: Born in Kenya, a Muslim Socialist
          * Pre-election polls

          • Daniel Zilberman

            No, I do not Chris – and I am not in the right wing at all. But for questions of leftist dictatorship (Chavez) presented as a populist hero – or future of Israel (I see you chimed in with strong condemnation of Israel’s right to exist misrepresenting UN resolution 242 today) is all aligned with leftists playbook: decry capitalism and liberties as evil and praise dictatorships (socialist, islamic etc) as true solutions for happy people. BTW, in both cases (Venesuela, Palestine) – right of minorities: women, homosexual, religious were viciously suppressed. How’s that for the true Liberal?

        • thucy

          Um, I’m on the progressive left, as you call it, but I hardly consider Chavez a hero. I’m far from alone in this perspective within my group.

    • feathers

      I don’t think Chavez was born miserably poor like he would have loved to be for marketing purposes. He was born middle class and his parents were teachers.

  • erictremont

    Hugh Chavez is a great advertisement for the quality of the Cuban medical care system.

    • thucy

      Were you being sarcastic? I wouldn’t knock Cuban medicine, the Cubans as a people are far healthier than the US population as a whole. Y’ever wonder why? Hmmmm…

      • erictremont

        Cuba’s advances in primary medical care were made possible when the government decided to shift scarce resources from food production, housing, and transportation to the medical care sector. If you look at the quality of the typical Cuban household’s diet, housing, etc. the accomplishments of their medical care system don’t look so impressive. Hugo Chavez pulled a similar trick when he shifted resources to the poor—yes, I guess living standards may have improved for some of them, but many ordinary people in Venezuela are (to put it mildly) rather upset by the sad state of the overall economy and soaring crime rate.

        • thucy

          But you’re making their argument for them, Eric. It’s a prevention-based system.

          And… let’s face it, Cubans are not, as a group, overweight and inactive at US levels. And that’s a very, very big deal. In fact, the average Cuban grandmother could probably outpace you in a 10K.

          True, if you’ve never had to wheel a 450-lb American patient to CT scan, only to be told that the patient will need to be CT’d AT THE ZOO because the machine won’t bear the weight, then you can’t really appreciate the absurdity of our “superior” healthcare industrial complex, which exists to make cash off of a population that wouldn’t be sick in the first place if we simply reformed the food system here.

          • erictremont

            I agree 100% that obsesity is a very serious public health problem in the U.S., but I think you miss my point: in order to achieve gains in its medical care system, Cuba has starved (pardon the pun) other sectors of its economy. The historical record is pretty clear.

          • thucy

            You wrote that Cuba shifted resources from transport to healthcare.

            But… have you looked at how our government has shifted money that should go into transport infrastructure into for-profit medical chicanery?

            We spend the most cash per capita on healthcare than any other nation, and we have the worst results.

            Cuba shifted resources from transport to healthcare, and it, uh, WORKED. BTW, American obesity isn’t, as you wrote, “a very serious public health problem” – it is THE problem for our federal and state budgets. It is THE problem for productivity over the next 20 years. It is a hot mess.

          • erictremont

            If you are saying that there is much about life in the U.S. that is morally corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, irrational, and socially unjust you’ll get no argument from me. But let’s look at the big picture: there aren’t many impoverished folks in this country who are getting into small boats and trying to sneak into Cuba. Despite all of our problems, most folks in the U.S. think the overall quality of life here is superior to countries like Cuba. The fact that Cuba may have a pretty good medical care system does not change that fact.

          • thucy

            “The fact that Cuba may have a pretty good medical care system does not change that fact.”

            right, I never wrote it was a higher overall quality of life – I merely pointed out that your snarky first comment about Cuban medical care (which you now admit is “pretty good”) was off the mark.

            And now drop and give me fifty pushups and four miles round the track so you can someday be as strong as a Cuban grandmother! 😉

          • erictremont

            Their primary care system is pretty good, but I am skeptical about their tertiary care system, which is what prompted my sarcastic comment. I should have been more specific.

          • feathers

            I agree with you in the sense our medical system is really not working, and so very expensive with not great results, but that doesn’t justify Cuba’s medical system or socioeconomical tyranny model, it’s not great there either! The best model as far as I know it’s France’s, where all the citizens (including the president and the fed employees) have the same basic health care who pays for broken bones, to cancer treatments, with a 10% income tax for all… and it supplements with private insurance for the people who can afford, for things as preventive medicine etc not critical things. At least that was the way my french friend explain to me. They seem very happy with it. Not happy in Cuba. Not happy in Venezuela.

      • feathers

        ration food booklets!

        • thucy

          it’d be kinder than pretending to “treat” obese Americans who are, ironically, likely MORE malnourished than lean Cubans.

          • feathers

            Cubans don’t have the option to go to the market and have plenty shelves to buy food. Thucy, it’s easy to talk about it when it’s not happening to you and see it as a good thing. Yes, they can’t over indulge but that comes with malnourishment and hunger too, specially for people who have not tendency to become obese. Their diets are not by choice, you know, hopefully you are not forgetting that little detail. They have restaurants for tourist where locals cannot go, how do you feel about it? Is that okay to you? Why don’t you move there and trade spots with a cuban family?

          • thucy

            I didn’t say I was dying to trade places, but as someone who’s done the (literally) heavy lifting for the diseases created by all those wonderful supermarket choices you describe, I’m not blindly criticizing a country with a healthier, stronger, more physically active population.

          • feathers

            Not blindy, but mind you, you have to be more realistic in understanding that Cuba is not a great place to be a citizen, because they don’t have choices and free opinions as we do. They cannot even choose what profession they want to be if they are “fit” to go to university. If you are, they tell you what is it that you are gonna study. I would put my husband happily on a food ration book since chocolate chip cookies happens to disappear from the kitchen at a very fast rate, buy our problems as a society are not a license for what is happening there. Cuba health care system is not great as people think it is. Not the way their live, not their book rationing, etc… how can you apologize for Fidel Castro and what they have done to his country, frankly that’s the part I don’t get.

          • thucy

            “Yes, they can’t over indulge but that comes with malnourishment and hunger too, specially for people who have not tendency to become obese.”

            My argument is that the majority of obese Americans are probably more malnourished than the average Cuban. A lot of MD’s who work at UCSF and travel to Cuba would agree.

            “Their diets are not by choice, you know, hopefully you are not forgetting that little detail”
            I didn’t forget, nor have I forgotten that much of Cuba’s hardship is the result of idiotic US embargoes crafted by Miami-based lobbyists who will never need to see the results of their decisions. Thank God the new generation of Cuban-Americans don’t think like their parents.

          • feathers

            I don’t agree with the embargo but I also don’t agree with Castro blaming everything to it. Remember that Chavez has been Castro cash cow since 14 years now and how does that have worked for the Cuban people? Cuba also doesn’t have an embargo with Europe and China and how does that work for them? It hasn’t change a lot, why, because Fidel and co, the upper echelon of Cuban social model doesn’t want to. The core of the problem lies on it.

          • Diana

            The embargo has done nothing but give the Castros an excuse for all their flaws. The production of of eggs, chicken, milk, corn, fruits and such for local consumption (not huge production for export) has nothing to do with the embargo.I was visiting Habana once, and at one point there was a large number of people queuing up behind a truck to buy ¡plantains! In Cuba!

  • johnqeniac

    Michael Krasny

    The enormous polarization of Venezuelan society into ‘chavez/anti-chavez’ camps seems so much like a milder version of the polarization and hatred of american society into ‘bush/anti-bush’ and ‘clinton/anti-clinton’ camps around the two anti-democratic dynasties that have dominated the American aristocratic power structure for decades past and probably decades to come. Striking parallels there. Please discuss.


    – Greg Slater

  • Chris OConnell

    Michael Krasny is a critic and opponent of Hugo Chavez, that much is very clear. Given his position, how can he not be, I suppose.

    Like Krasny’s chosen narrative of Chavez being incompetent, cracking down on speech, mismanaging the oil industry and that whole litany of horrors he ran through. Fortunately, the professor pointed out that there is a different narrative to each of those claims.

  • johnqeniac

    Again, the parallels with the totally dysfunctional U.S. political system are so striking – Venezuela is enormously in debt to China; the United States is enormously in debt to China. The poor loved Chavez and call him a populist, while the rich hate him and call him a dictator. In the U.S., the poor love Obama and call him and a progressive, while the U.S. patrician class detests Obama and call him a dictator and communist. Striking parallels. Please discuss.

  • John

    The death of Chavez is NOT a great loss. Please ask any Venezuelan ex-pat here in the US- he was the sum of all these criticisms, not a hero. His time is long passed. Please stop the “end justifies the means” excuses for his brutal dictatorship of Venezuela.

    • Don Macleay

      you mean any Venezuelan ex pat with great English and stock market portfolio? Somehow that did not add up to an electoral majority back in Venezuela.

  • I would call it poor reporting by Krasny in this program. His anti-Chavez sentiment was predominant and left little room for real discussion. Even so the professor did a good job in ‘presenting the other side’. I agree that looking at the overall benefit that Venezuela received from his government is key.

    • Daniel Zilberman

      I would call it poor and biased comment, sorry. It is time for the left (that dominates NPR audience in San Francisco) to wake up form pipe dreams and start seeing things for what they are vs. what the “progressive” viewpoint prescribes you to do. Chavez was a populist but brutal dictator bent on anti Western sentiments “justified” by Bolivarian revolutionary ideology. It failed in the former Soviet block and it will fail in the Latin America – but it takes more time for that. Chavez was notorious friend of world pariahs: North Korea, Iran and – of course- brother Fidel in post communist Cuba. The people of Venezuela got some handouts but the economy is a third world one – based on raw oil export. If the dead dictator really wanted to develop the economy with all that money – he would have invested in education, high tech and market economy which of course is against Marxist doctrine

    • Eric

      I have to agree with you here. Very disappointing to hear Krasny views. Either he has not done his homework on this topic or he is being payed or manipulated to be so. In either case, his reputation is to be questioned. Very dissapointed for I listen to him all mornings.

    • feathers

      He was stating facts, sadly. I invite all Chavez friends who live in the shelter blanket of the ewil empire, to renounce their citizenship and trade their spot in America with a Venezuelan family. There in Venezuelan they can live the revolution and take advantages of the sea of opportunities and happiness that the Chavista government has brought to all.

  • feathers

    I think Tinker Salas think way too highly of Chavistas, the fact of the matter is that they like to use the list of tascon or spot citizens who happen not to be in agreement with Chavez, every time they can. Surely Chavez spoke against it but he was the one who order it. That was Chavez for you ladies and gents, the man talked like a parrot and say all kinds of beautiful things and then do the opposite or simply don’t do anything about it. Let’s not forget he won as the candidate who was gonna eliminate corruption and his administration has become one of Kleptocract much more than the others from the past.

  • Chris OConnell

    He is labelled an autocrat and dictator (repeatedly) by the host. The elections don’t matter. The opposition doesn’t matter. He is a dictator and an autocrat, and Michael Krasny will NOT be moved on this point. Of course, the only reason these labels stick here is because he defied the US.

    au·to·crat: 1: a person (as a monarch) ruling with unlimited authority.

    • feathers

      And he is, he ruled the country like his own personal farm. Krasny knows what he is talking about.

  • One of your guess lied about Chavez nationalizing the oil company. Carlos Andres Perez did in the late 70’s. This is the type of “white” lies that goes around the world to make Chavez figure likable…

  • disqus_aibkr10DET

    It is a real shame that people still denies all the wrong doing from Chavez allies. All the oil money was either stolen or given away to other countries to follow his egotistical personal agenda.

    The people is extreme poverty there are a huge number of political prisoners, it has become one of the most violent countries in the world.
    There is no real state of law, if you are charisma you will alway win, does not matter if you are a rapist, murder or thief. But you will go to jail even if you are a decent person, just because you cross the path with a chavista.

    He and his allies are some of the richest men in latinamerica, when they started they were poor. The black list are real and still used. Many of friend and family are still on then, and are widely used.

  • Eric

    Dear Mr. Michael Krazny, your job is to be a mediator , to have a broader opinion on both side of the issues. You clearly lack the knowledge this time and you are completely biased , just as most private media networks. Please don’t attempt to hosting a program like this if you are not prepare and be open to hear both sides. You have completely disappointed me and I can guess I’m not alone.

  • 99to1

    There have been a lot of unsupported accusations on this show that Chavez was a dictator and ran a repressive police state. I think it is incumbent on the host of a supposedly neutral discussion to require substantiation of such assertions, rather than reflexively repeat them as accepted fact.The conspicuous absence of any solid facts on this show supporting those assertions is instructive–as is the striking similarity of these claims to the unrelenting torrent of Chavez defamation directed against Chavez by the US government and American big business. (Talk about demonization).

    As a relevant counterpoint, the US imprisons a higher proportion of its citizens than any other nation in the world, including China and Russia. (Talk about police state repression).

    Chavez has been demonized because he asserted Venezuela’s right to Venezuela’s oil resources. That is sufficient offense to invite fatal foreign intervention from the US, whether by covert operations or outright invasion.

    Therefore I do not find it at all far-fetched to inquire whether Chavez’ fatal cancer was perhaps the result of covert, deniable assassination.

    People (including Mr. Krasny ) who scoff at this notion as nothing more than ludicrous conspiracy theory ought to acquaint themselves with polonium poisoning as a weapon of state. Russian agents murdered Alexander Litvinenko with polonium, and evidence under investigation in France suggests that Yasar Arafat was also eliminated by this method.

    We know that the US has assassinated chiefs of state (Lamumba, Diem, Allende) and waged war on many popular, democratic governments that challenged imperialist US domination (Grenada, Nicaragua) and has backed mercenary or state-terrorist campaigns against popular socialist revolutions (Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador).

    We also know that these behaviors are not relegated to a shameful past. The current POTUS has arrogated the right to conduct assassinations, under legal rationalizations declared top secret.

    There may not yet be proof that Chavez’ cancer was induced, but there are ample reasons to seriously entertain the possibility –and far better reasons than the mainstream opinion makers have for dismissing the idea out of hand.

  • MattCA12

    Forget about his relationship with the US; just look at the state of Venezuela. All that oil wealth and that’s the best he could do? Yeah, he was a great leader…

  • Roger Burbach

    As the program demonstrates, Chavez is a polarizing figure in death as well as life. Miguel Tinker Salas appears to be closer to the reality of what is happening in Venezuela than Francisco Toro

    Chavez has left an indelible mark on the international scene as I write in an article in The Progressive magazine.

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