Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Chavez’s Legacy – a Very Mixed Bag

When Chavez died last month, much of the world mourned his loss.  Though many in the West were glad to see him out of power, it is hard for us in the West to fully appreciate that not only to the Latin world, but also to the Arab World, Chavez was a lion.

To the Arabs, Chavez was a lion.
His pro-Palestinian stance especially endeared him in the contested areas.

Yes, he helped the poor with subsidized education, and assistance. However, like typical leftists, he did it in such a war that it wrecked much of Venezuela’s economy.

In 2002, Chavez withstood a US supported coup against him, which endeared him to the left all over the world.

If he had been previously anti-Israel, and anti-America, after the coup he barreled on, full steam ahead.

He brought in Iranian influence and trade to Latin America; and set up a de-facto alliance between Iran and Venezuela.

Due to Chavez, Venezuela now runs a very anti-Israel transnational television network – TeleSUR – which broadcasts throughout all of Latin America. Even though transnational, Venezuela owns the largest share; and ultimately, a large share of the editorial control. TeleSUR also has a running arrangement with Al Jazeera. One does not have to speak much Spanish to know what effect this is having in Latin America.

Famous 2010 speach where Chavez condemned Israel.
Translated into English and French, so it is repeated twice.

Why was Chavez so anti-Israel?

Was it because Venezuela was 6% Arabic?

I doubt it. The Arabs in Venezuela tend to be elite; and would probably have been his opponents among the better off classes. Besides they are almost all Christian, not Islamic;  many from Maronite Catholic ancestry.

Rather, it was probably because of Chavez’s leftist tendencies. Tendencies which had been shaped by a notoriously slippery, politician named Norberto Ceresole, who was a Holocaust denier and anti-semite.

During Chavez’s watch, anti-Semitism increased in Venezuela, and the Jewish community dwindled.

Chavez was merely following a trail that had been blazed a generation earlier by Che Guevera – the premier leftist of his time; and a hero of Chavez.

How could Chavez not follow suit?

In 1959 Che Guevera visited the Palestinian refugee camps in the then Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip.  This is a time when most of the world, outside of Araby, favored the Israelis.  It says much about Che Guevera, and about Chavez who would idolize him.

Guevera  and Nasser

Che Guevera meets Nasser

So when Chavez expelled the Israeli ambassador in 2006, during the Lebanon War – a war started by Hezbollah, not Israel –  he was just doing what leftists do naturally.

In Chavez’s case, he mixed his toxic political brew into a still heavily Catholic culture, where there was a reside – albeit declining before his rise to power – of anti-Semitism.

“The world has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him… have taken control of the riches of the world.”
-Hugo Chavez

In Chavez’s case, his rhetorical went beyond mere anti-Zionism and became borderline vicious. It gave anti-semitism a new breath of life and respectability  in Latin America.

Right now, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua are run by neo-leftists,  all of who worked with, and followed in the footsteps of Hugo Chavez. He has done considerable damage to the world body politic. Worse yet, he has left a large propaganda network to carry on after him. His alliance with Ahmedinejad has given Iran a door into the continent.

Chavez was not the totalitarian in the brutal way that Fidel Castro was; but neither was he a real democrat. He was more of bombastic demagogue.  The closest historical analog of Chavez was Juan Perón; but even Juan Perón was never personally anti-semitic – in fact, Perón had a Jewish advisor,  José Ber Gelbard.

Chavez’s real power was the power to persuade the masses. Unfortunately, he persuaded them to ignoble hatreds.

Chavez had imbibed the genuinely anti-semitic beliefs of Norberto Ceresole, and it affected his administration.  He had aligned himself with the genocidally crazy, President Ahmedinejad of Iran. Through Chavez, anti-Israel bile broadcast out into Latin America, and changed the opinions of much of the Hispanic world.

No wonder the Arab world idolized Chavez!

Chavez did hep the poor, who did need helping;  but he under his administration, crime rates soared. He bungled the economy with his regulatory controls.  His price controls and subsidies just encouraged smuggling.

As is often the case, bombasts like Chavez fix one problem, but create many more.

It is to be hoped that with his passing, Latin American media will get a little bit less ugly; and find some more reasonable reformers.