Hugo Chavez: A Clown Masquerading As A Threat

6 March 2013

As would-be dictators go, Hugo Chavez was on the clownish end of the repressive spectrum. By the end, however, the joke was wearing thin. He was, as Rory Carroll aptly describes him, an “elected autocrat”. But if you judge a man by the company he keeps, Chavez’s legacy takes a darker turn. In the name of sticking-it-to-the-man (that is, the United States) Chavez chummed himself to most of the world’s ghastliest leaders. And, of course, his hero and father-figure was Fidel Castro, governor of the world’s sunniest island gulag.

Meanwhile, in Britain and Ireland, his death has been mourned by George Galloway (who deems Chavez a “modern day Spartacus”), Ken Livingstone, Gerry Adams and pretty much every other member of the far-left. That should, as the Daily Mash suggests, tell you everything you need to know about Chavez.

Rhetoric about assisting the poor shouldn’t cover-up the fact that Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution was a failure and an increasingly grotesque fiasco at that. All the populist bluster in the world could not disguise that awkward reality.

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The greater the failure, the more authoritarian Chavez’s rule became. Those fortunate enough to be connected to the regime became rich; despite the rhetoric most Venezuelans remained poor.

Of course, Chavez had some reason to dislike the United States. Washington would have been happy to see the 2002 coup attempt succeed. Chavez never forgave the Americans for this and it is true that this helped precipitate his leftward turn.

In truth, Chavez was vastly over-estimated by Washington. Listening to bone-headed Republicans you could have been forgiven for supposing this bullshitting caudillo was a Latin American Stalin. Chavez never represented much more than a modest threat to mainstream American interests. It suited both sides to flatter Chavez and over-estimate his influence.

He didn’t matter that much. The lamentations on the left today, however, remind us that posing as a champion of the people seems to impress some people more than actually improving the peoples’ lot in life. Prepare yourself for even greater quantities of hagiographical hallucination when dear old Fidel finally shuffles off to his death. (American policy towards Cuba, of course, is only marginally less stupid than Castro’s own politics.)

Then again if the left embarrasses itself vis a vis Castro and Chavez, the right did likewise when it mourned the death of Augusto Pinochet. In each case it should be possible to acknowledge that, whatever their achievements, only a fool fails to recognise that the downside to their rule was considerable.

Chavez was a bully and a crackpot. Lamenting his demise is a fool’s business. The better response would be to pity Venezuela and hope, though the odds do not seem promising, that something better will follow now the great charlatan has gone.

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Show comments
  • Porkbeast

    Sour grapes.

    The poor of South America saw that there is an alternative to the
    neo-liberal bankrupting economics that saw their oil and national assets
    being pored untaxed down the throats of the rich. He nationalised them
    and used them money to build schools and hospitals.This is seen as an
    economic failure by the sour grapes press.

  • David Lindsay

    A threat to where? To what? To whom? He never purported to be any such thing. And at least he was elected, unlike Cameron.

    • mightymark

      Who are you trying to fool with your “unlike Cameron” remark.

      Who DID we elect at the last election – and what do you think should have happened with a result like that of 2010?

      Is a Parliament or Government less valid because it is elected by a collectively uncertain electorate?

      Or is the desperation to talk up Chavez so gret that you have to talk down the UK electorate.

      Or maybe I have it wholly wrong and grief has got the better of you? I shouldn’t worry – Latin American thug rulers are like buses – there’ll be another one along in a minute.

      • David Lindsay

        I meant exactly what I said. Nothing more and nothing less. Chávez had more electoral legitimacy than Bush in 2000 or Cameron (outside Witney) today. Chávez, who had at least won an election, had any. Cameron, whom the electorate has explicitly rejected, has none.

        • Eddie

          Utter piffle.
          Chavez was a vile dictator who tortured and murdered any writer who wrote anything that dared to criticise his authoritarian regime. His ambitions were essentially fascistic – and he was a vain, attention-seeking egomaniac.
          Remember please that Adolf H was elected as were many Communists. That does not legitimate dictatorship, torture, murder, and state control of all media.
          Your comparing Cameron unfavourably to Chavez illustrated the nincompoopery of your tired, past-its-sell-by-date thinking.

          • Wessex Man

            David Lindsay, I understand now, Bigot Brown won in 2010!

            • David Lindsay

              Well, Cameron certainly didn’t.

              Chávez, by contrast, won his election. Not for the first time.

        • mightymark

          If it “explicitly rejected” Cameron who did it endorse – explicitly or otherwise?

          • David Lindsay

            No one in particular. But that’s not the point, or at least not the whole point. Chávez won elections. Cameron lost his.

  • Jupiter

    Finally, crackers from Caracas has snuiffed it

  • Eddie

    Chavez was an abuser of human rights, who locked up and tortured many writers, who was against all freedom of expression, who – even if he did some good fo the poor (so did many dictators) – was a despot, a dictator and a egomaniac, culivating a Guevarean image to the world whilst inflicting oppression on all who disgreed with him.
    No wonder Galloway and Livingstone loved him – oh how they would love that power!

    • Simon Semere

      You seem to know an awful lot about Chavez, have you cared to check where you get your information from and the importance of who has influence over it. The reality is he never was a dictator and was celebrated like a pop star, which I can’t say the same for hardly any leaders in position.

      • Eddie

        Have you checked where you get your information from? And who has influence over it?

        Let me see – it’ll be the usual fabrications and lies spouted by left-wing hypocrites desperately trying to create a hero for their cause (now that murderous dictators Stalin, Lenin et al are past their sell-by date, and Kim wotzit is so nutty and foreign-looking…).

        The reality was and is that Chavez was a dictator – an authoritarian leader who locked up writers and anyone who dared to criticse him, who banned a free press and was just like all dictators and despots everywhere.
        Why is it that leftie hypocrites like you hate dictators if you label them as right wing (e.g. H – the one not from Steps) but adore them if you perceive them as left wing (eg Chavez, Castro et al)? Utter brazen hypocrisy.

        Me – I am consistent and hate all dictators. I am a member of an organisation (English PEN) that supports freedom of expression for writers worldwide, and I can assure comrades like you that many writers have enjoyed the hospitality of Chavez and Castro in jail, and had free dentistry whilst there too (which often involved the very efficient removing of all their teeth)! Also free healthcare – which they have needed of course as they have been tortured half to death whilst there.

        You should also stop assuming that the choice here is between supporting a leftwing despot like Chavez or supporting an utterly free market economy, or a right wing dictatorship a la Pinochet. That is a false argument and a straw man one too: I know no-one who wants that. What those who support human decenct want is an effective and reasonable democratic government in all South American countries, which does not oppress, torture and murder people as Chavez did.

        I think you should find a pop star to worship instead of projecting your own desperate need for a hero on a dictator and abuser of human rights. How about Gary Glitter? He looks swarthy enough to get the leftwing vote…

        • Simon Semere

          I see your argument, but don’t you find it strange coincidence that we in the west have been fed that he’s extreme left and a dictator and that the leader (with right cause) hasn’t any trust for the US. He’s been elected four times and loved but I know let’s just call him an oppressive leader and forget how he’s stamped down on poverty and enriched the country.

          • Eddie

            Chavez was extreme left and a dictator! Evidence? Read this:


            He was elected but so what – so was Adolf and post-war commie leaders. So would all dictators have been actually.
            He was loved? So was Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other mass murderers.
            YOu seem to be excusing Chavez his authoritarian rule, abuse of human rights, outlawing of free speech and persecution of writers – because he reduced poverty and enriched the country. Well, so did Hitler and so did Stalin. By your logic, they were just grrrrreat too!

            • Simon Semere

              Chavez is seen as threat because of the countries growth. He survived the coup d’etat to eliminate him as a threat and has good reason to be paranoid of western media and government, especially with propaganda pieces creating advocates of dictatorship on the same wave as Stalin and Hitler??

              • Eddie

                And Chavez is seen as a hero by many lefties because he hates the USA.
                Chavez will be embalmed and displayed (for worship) in a mausoleum.
                Remind you of anyone then?
                The man was a dictator, an authoritarian, an autocrat and an egomaniac who wanted to create a cult of personality about himself.
                Nice to see so many lefties in the UK supporting and mourning a man who believed in locking up writers who wrote things he disgreed with. No we know what many of them would like to see here…

                • Simon Semere

                  You’ve just repeated everything you’ve said at the beginning of the discussion, how old are you?

                • Hüseyin

                  As ı see Chavez is a rather contoversial politician but he was liked by
                  his people. Of course there are abuses in human rights. He was a popular dictator of course but did he have an other choice? Now it is time to forget about him and to ameliorate the situation of his country.

        • Simon Semere

          I see your argument, but don’t you find it strange coincidence that we in the west have been fed that he’s extreme left and a dictator and that the leader (with right cause) hasn’t any trust for the US. He’s been elected four times and loved but I know let’s just call him an oppressive leader and forget how he’s stamped down on poverty and enriched the country.

  • andagain

    A Clown Masquerading As A Threat

    I wonder if that is how the Venezuelans saw him.

    • Baron

      andagain, you should check things up, it helps.

      here’s a piece by someone who sits in the same boat as you, knows more about the country that anyone here, doesn’t seem to be as sure rating the man highly in spite of how the Venezuelans (well, some Venezuelans) saw him. You reckon Halvorssen biased?

      • andagain

        He was basically arguing that Chavez was a threat to Venezuela masquerading as a clown. I agree. But that is the exact opposite of what Alex called him.

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