What does Chávez's death mean for Venezuela and Latin America?by Daniel Cohen / March 6, 2013 / Leave a comment
Hugo Chávez died yesterday at the age of 58. William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, said he was “saddened to learn of [Chávez’s] death,” adding: “As president of Venezuela for 14 years he has left a lasting impression on the country and more widely.”
Chávez had dominated Venezuelan—and, at times, Latin American—politics since the late 1990s. Inspired by his hero, the nineteenth-century Venezuelan politician Simón Bolívar, Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution” promised popular democracy and a more egalitarian society. Funded by Venezuela’s ample petro-dollars, his social programmes did have some success in reducing inequality, winning him the loyalty of many voters. But his presidency also stoked the divisions in Venezuelan society and clamped down on political dissent, while he exerted a strong grip on the country’s institutions, enabling him to bypass the constitution. A vocal critic of the United States, especially under George W Bush, his alliances with such foreign leaders as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko did him no favours, and tried the patience of some of his admirers.