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After a long battle with cancer, a controversial political figure died last week— Venezuela’s president of 14 years, Hugo Chavez. In the wake of the country’s loss, international debate over his legacy has begun to stir.
When his usually frequent and long-winded televised speeches, which the nation’s channels were forced to air, became less frequent, the population knew something was wrong.
Who was this man, what were his beliefs, and how did those beliefs impact his nation and the world politically?
Chavez was born in a humble household to two lower-middle class teachers.
As a child, he dreamed of professionally playing America’s pastime, baseball. Ironically, he would grow up to become one of the world’s most anti-American leaders.
Chavez was educated at the Military Academy of Venezuela in Caracas. As he attained higher ranks, he gained significant influence when he became a captain and instructor at the institution. Early on, some of his colleagues became suspicious of his agenda when he began espousing Marxist ideas.
Perhaps more troubling was his close friendship with the Castro family of communist-governed Cuba.
Some contend that Chavez worked wonders in Venezuela, while others have a different viewpoint.
Democratic Senator Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts praised the socialist leader for his economic policies and aid to the poor in an interview with the Associated Press.
He said, “Some of the wealthiest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend.”
What’s concerning is that an American would have such respect for a leader who supported the idea of wealth distribution and would imply that rich people should feel guilty because they cannot spend all of the money that they have.
In addition, how can Kennedy praise Chavez’s work with the Venezuelan economy or his supposed care for the poor?
Take a look at the facts. During Chavez’s presidency, the country has seen record highs in inflation and steady currency devaluation. Both factors affect the poor.
One of the only things adding a sense of stability to the economy is the massive oil industry that rivals the Middle East’s.
Chavez made his hatred for America and its leadership loud for all to hear. In an address to the United Nations, he said of the former president, “Mr. Bush, you are a donkey.”
In addition to his dislike for the U.S., he displayed what most would interpret as paranoia of American assassination attempts.
In an 2009 CNN interview with Larry King, he explained how he “saw” his assassins.
The question is what the Chavez legacy will mean through this transition.