The Corner

Hugo Chávez the Low-Class Clown

It’s interesting to see how differently people see Hugo Chávez in the United States, compared with how his fellow caribeños saw him. He certainly was a thug, as Krauthammer says. And he could be a particularly sinister thug, as the verbal and physical attacks on Venezuela’s Jewish community made sickeningly clear.

But there was more. As Guardian correspondent Rory Carroll argues in this brilliant New York Times op-ed, he was also in the end an awful manager, who has left Venezuela in ruins. Mind you, Venezuela had long-since been enfeebled and besotted by the curse of nationalized oil and corrupt governments, so it was already in terrible shape when Chávez took over. But he pushed his nation far deeper into indolence and dependency. He never grasped that wealth emerges from labor productivity, not from the ground, and after blowing a trillion dollars in oil windfalls like a personal charity/slush fund, he has left Venezuela much poorer.

I grew up in a family of Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and we have always felt very close to Venezuelans. They talk like us, listen to the same music, etc.; they’re as familiar as people from North Carolina are to Texans. For me, listening to Chávez — which we could do at great length on the Internet — was always a bit like listening to that crazy uncle who shows up for family parties and steals the night because he’s just such a clown. Where his hero Fidel Castro was humorless and sadistic, Chávez was funny and outrageous — and so very, very vulgar. As much as anything else, that made me feel sorry for the many dignified Venezuelans I knew — to be represented on the world stage by this embarrassing spectacle was just pitiful. 

For the destitute and deeply uneducated Venezuelans who live on hunger wages and handouts, Chávez must have seemed like some sort of angel elevated from among their own — and he practically was. That was the best thing about him. The worst was that in the long run, he has left Venezuela’s poor, and their progeny, most ruined of all. 

Mario Loyola — Contributing editor Mario Loyola is senior fellow and Director of the Center for Competitive Federalism at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. He began his career in corporate ...

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More