Following news of Hugo Chávez’s death, Washington Post columnist and editor Eugene Robinson was quick to give praise the Venezuelan president and his time in office on The Rachel Maddow Show last night. Robinson kicked off his brief tribute by describing Chávez as “sui generis,” “charismatic,” and “very smart,” but he didn’t stop there.
Robinson’s acclaim for the caudillo falls well short of reality, though. For example, despite repeated instances of intimidating supporters of his opposition and suppressing media, Robinson was reluctant to call Chávez a tyrant, arguing that he had been “democratically elected. . . with healthy majorities” four times. The WaPo columnist went on to applaud Chávez for diverging from his predecessors, calling them “a corrupt political class and business class that lived very well on the proceeds of all that oil.” This despite the fact the Chávez family’s estimated net worth of $2 billion was largely fueled by Venezuela’s oil reserves, widespread cronyism, and nationalization of private companies.
Later on, Robinson said the country had improved over Chávez’s presidency, saying that the slums had been “just horrible places, violent places” before he was elected — yet Venezuela is currently the most violent South American nation, and has the world’s fourth-highest murder rate. Lastly, Chávez also gave Venezuela’s poor “hope,” he said, even though he left the country with high inflation, food shortages, and fears of political turmoil.