March 09, 2013
I don’t know what happened in Hugo Chavez’s room when he died, 60 years to the very day after Stalin, though I doubt it was anything quite so dramatic. Chavez wasn’t a mass murderer, after all, though he did an enormous amount of damage to his country’s judiciary, to its press, to its public life and to its ever more oil-dependent economy. Like the Soviet dictator, he promised the poor of his country things that cannot be delivered — and still they are expected to turn out in vast numbers for his funeral Friday, while his henchmen begin the battle for succession.- right-wing cretin Anne Applebaum (via, see also, also).
One anecdote alone should be enough to give the lie to the idea that poor Venezuelans voted for Chávez because they were fascinated by the baubles they dangled in front of them. During the 2006 presidential campaign, the signature pledge of Chávez’s opponent was to give 3,000,000 poor Venezuelans a black credit card (black as in the color of oil) from which they could withdraw up to $450 in cash a month, which would have drained over $16 billion dollars a year from the national treasury (call it neoliberal populism: give to the poor just enough to bankrupt the government and force the defunding of services). Over the years, there’s been a lot of heavy theoretically breathing by US academics about the miasma oil wealth creates in countries like Venezuela, lulling citizens into a dreamlike state that renders them into passive spectators. But in this election at least, Venezuelans managed to see through the mist. Chávez won with over 62 percent of the vote.- from Greg Grandin's obit in the Nation.