The Death of Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion.” – Sean Penn on the death of Hugo Chavez

Winston Churchill once famously opined that the greatest vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings and that the greatest vice socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

This sage observation immediately sprang to mind upon hearing that one of the world’s biggest left-wing “heroes”, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, had exited stage left from our world.

And by “president”, I mean a third-rate Castro-loving, America-bashing, socialist left-wing dictator.

In other words, exactly the type of foreign despot that too many on the Hollywood Left seem to have an irrational love affair. It is baffling to witness the naive praise from Chavez apologists for a bully who robbed and oppressed his own countrymen while wrapped under the facade of “equality” and “socialism”.

For left-wing Chavez apologists like Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Sean Penn, the late Venezuelan president was a champion in their perceived struggle against the forces of capitalism and free-markets. The reality is Chavez’s policies hurt the very people he was supposed to help, creating a virtual police state with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Chavez apologists advocate for artistic freedom and freedom of speech at home in the United States, but then ignore the systematic crackdown on any newspaper, journalist or television outlet that dared criticized their beloved socialist leader.

They naively praised Chavez for breaking down “class barriers” for the downtrodden, while ignoring the estimated $2 billion in personal fortune he amassed for himself and fellow cronies of his “Bolivarian” revolution.

They claimed Chavez was for democracy and free elections, while ignoring the 125,000+ militia of “Chavistas” that cracked down on dissent and reminded the world of Cuba’s notorious Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Venezuelans lived in constant fear that any “counterrevolutionary activity” could be reported to a government that has little concern for due process of law.

They claimed Chavez policies helped the poor, but instead the poor have gotten poorer while Venezuela’s debt has exploded along with an inflation rate among the highest in the world. The poor have also seen widespread shortages of basic necessities like milk and bread as a direct result of Chavez’s scheme of price controls and nationalization. A nation with immense oil wealth and vast energy resources has suffered the embarrassment of near constant power grid shut downs and shortages.

By all accounts, Venezuela is poorer, more corrupt, and possesses less freedom than when Chavez took power in 1999.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that Chavez’s personal hero was Simon Bolivar, the legendary leader who liberated so much of South America from Spanish colonial rule. Bolivar was known to carry a copy of Adam Smith’s classic capitalist treatise, “The Wealth of Nations” into battle, a book that Chavez has clearly ignored or never read.

My family directly experienced the misery of Cuba’s “socialist paradise” in the 1960s, so I have little stomach for the romantic notions that too many on the far Left have given to Castro, Che Guevara and Chavez. Unfortunately, a rebranding that already occurred while Chavez was alive will only accelerate with his death. Soon we will begin seeing his image emblazoned on t-shirts, posters and paintings as the new darling of the progressive movement.

While Sean Penn has never met a socialist that he didn’t love or excuse, and the Venezuelan leader’s death may have been a bad day for Chavez apologists, it was truly a good day for lovers of liberty.