Hugo Chavez stood and quite rightfully falls on principle. He fought in his estimation for the good of the people, but he eroded their electoral voice and withdrew from protecting his people from crime.
He was outspoken against the United States of America, fueling his populism and gaining sympathy from a world suspicious of US power. But if this same world, or rather the people in it, allow his charismatic leadership to overshadow and erase the record of his sinister abuses of power, they then allow themselves to be utterly morally compromised.
Chavez stopped exporting oil to the US which sparked a feud with the Bush Administration and led to their ridiculously heavy handed interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, to create fertile conditions for a coup to remove President Chavez. This was almost successful in 2002 when massive protests allowed Pedro Carmona to take power for three days before a lack of support brought Hugo Chavez back to the presidency. The culpability of the Bush Administration is clear in the aftermath, with skewed reporting of events revealed in the American press, and Pedro Carmona escaped house arrest and fled to Florida. There are reports of him meeting with Colin Powell at the end of 2002.
The interference of the United States of America is as disgusting now as it was during the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs. It is arrogant and Chavez was quite right to call it imperialism. But after the failed coup he dramatically expanded the military and instead of negotiating with the USA he favored Russia, Syria, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Castro’s Cuba. A cult of personality and electoral manipulation characterized his later years in power. It was announced today of the former president will be embalmed and put on display “so the people always have him.” This puts him in the same league as Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Kim il-Sung, and (ridiculously) Eva Perone. Not a friendly club to democracy and freedom.
Hugo Chavez was a critic of US imperialism and stood up against it because he could afford to do so, not something many other states can do. But he must be seen as the tyrant he was or else we convict ourselves of gross moral relativism and unworthy of the democratic systems we live under. Good luck to the embalmers of Chavez, the’ll sure need a lot of formaldehyde to prevent the last bits of him from rotting.