Venezuelan Dictator – and Loud Mouth – Dies in Caracas
By Harold Hutchison
On 5 March, 2013, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez departed this earth – making it a better place – after he lost a two-year battle with cancer. Chavez’s death promoted a wide range of reactions from Americans and Venzuelans.
Academy Award-winners Sean Penn and Oliver Stone expressed sadness at the dictator’s death, with Penn saying, “I lost a friend.” Stone said, “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place.” Stone did a 2009 film, South of the Border, that lionized Chavez. Congressman Jose Serrano also effused praise on the tyrant, saying, “Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.”
However, outside the Beltway and Hollywood bubbles, there was far less mourning for the Venezuelan tyrant. Serrano’s tweet drew outraged reaction. “WHAT? He was a Communist that disgrace the people of Venezuela. All the people of Venezuela at Happy with his death,” stated one response on the microblogging site. Another Twitter user asked Serrano, “ARE YOU SERIOUS??? All Chavez did was #empowering his OWN dictatorship! Are you REALLY a sitting Congressman??”
Comments at the SOF Facebook page were quite celebratory of the tyrant’s death. “RIH (Rot in Hell) Hugo Chavez!” one commenter posted. Another posted a comment saying, “Say hello to Osama for us Chavez.”
Chavez came to power in 1998 after winning an election, six years after leading a failed coup. Chavez then proceeded to re-write the Venezuelan constitution, and essentially became the dictator of the oil-rich country. Chavez was known for a very strong anti-American bent, cozying up to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. More frighteningly, he also cultivated close ties with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a loud-mouthed tyrant who has made public pronouncements in favor of wiping Israel off the map and denying the Holocaust. Iran declared a day of mourning for the Venezuelan dictator.
He survived a 2002 coup attempt, and a general strike. In 2006, at the United Nations, Chavez compared then-President George W. Bush to the devil – a comment referenced by a commentor at the SOF Facebook page, who said, “He's smelling plenty of sulfur now!!!” Chavez also at one point commended the work of Noam Chomsky.
Chavez also made outlandish accusations and statements, including claims that the United States had developed an earthquake weapon and that capitalism caused the end of life on Mars. He made significant weapons purchases from Russia, including Su-30 Flankers, Mi-35 helicopter gunships, BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, and Mi-17 helicopters.
At the same time, early in his reign, he appeared to be casting a covetous eye on neighboring Guyana – whose Essequebo region is rich in natural resources. Chavez also was reported to have had ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which caused tensions with neighboring Colombia. He even sponsored the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which brought together a number of leaders hostile to the United States, including Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega, and the tyrannical regime of Fidel and Raul Castro.
Chavez was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011. The Venezuelan dictator went to Cuba for treatment, and proclaimed in 2012 that he was cured. However, later that year, the cancer returned, and Chavez returned to Cuba for treatment a month after winning re-election to a fourth term as President. During this second round of treatment, he suffered a respiratory infection.
Chavez would never fully shake off the infections, and would die on 5 March. His appointed successor, Nicolas Maduro, claimed that the United States had a hand in the tyrant’s death, echoing Chavez’s claims of surviving American assassination attempts.
A new election is to be held in Venezuela within the next 30 days.