[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below]
Just about everyone with strong political convictions is posting tributes to or critiques of Hugo Chávez today, so I will too, even though I have nothing interesting to say about him. I was not a fan of Chávez, c’est le moins que l’on puisse dire, as I am not a fan of caudillos or demagogic military tough guys, even if they happen to enjoy mass support among the poor. And I can hardly sympathize with someone who palled around with the likes of Muammar Qadhafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Chávez did do some good things for the lower classes—which is only normal given Venezuela’s hydrocarbon wealth—but he also did many not good things for his country’s economy. When a strongman takes control of a rentier state and makes it even more rentier, that’s not a sign of good governance. It does not merit admiration.
Instead of blathering on, particularly as I have nothing interesting to say, I will link to a few worthy pieces I’ve read on Chávez today. Guardian correspondent Rory Carroll’s NYT op-ed, “In the end, an awful manager,” was quite good. Also Andres Oppenheimer’s analysis in The Miami Herald, “Chávez’s ‘revolution’ will lose steam abroad, but not at home.” Venezuelan political scientist and blogger Francisco Toro’s piece in The Atlantic, “Chavez wasn’t just a zany buffoon, he was an oppressive autocrat,” may also be read. And there’s Human Rights Watch on “Chávez’s authoritarian legacy.” Et en français, on peut lire la tribune par le journalist Michel Faure dans Rue89, “Hugo Chavez : un mirage calamiteux créé par les pétrodollars.” I was reading in the past hour—in The Guardian, I think—a paean to Chávez by Tariq Ali but started to gag halfway through, so no link to that.
UPDATE: Voilà more links to articles on Chávez and his legacy. Alma Guillermoprieto in the NYR Blog writes on “The Last Caudillo.” On the LRB Blog, Geoffrey Hawthorn reports that Venezuelans have been tweeting “Chávez hasta siempre.” In TNR, Stanford Ph.D. candidate Dorothy Kronick discusses “Two well-timed books on Chavez’s legacy.” Also in TNR, Francisco Toro—who also has a book coming out on Chávez—has a piece on “What Fidel taught Hugo: Cuba defined Chávez’s career as much as Venezuela did.”
2nd UPDATE: Amherst political scientist Javier Corrales has an excellent analysis in FP of the political economy of chavismo, “The house that Chávez built.” Entre autres, he describes an economy so badly afflicted with the Dutch Disease that it gave rise to an even more virulent strain of this, which he coins the Venezuelan Disease. Also focusing on the economy, The New Yorker’s John Cassidy explains why “Venezuela’s ‘resource curse’ will outlive Hugo Chávez.” In his article Cassidy refers to a critical assessment of Chávez by the well-known Venezuelan political economy pundit Moisés Naím—a Washington Consensus type—in Business Week, but his link to the piece doesn’t work. It does here.
3rd UPDATE: Danny Postel of the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies, writing on Critical Inquiry’s blog, asks about “Hugo Chávez and the Middle East: Which Side Was He On?” And Mother Jones interviews journalist Rory Carroll (see above) on “Covering Hugo Chávez: ‘If Only He Ruled As Well As He Campaigned’.”
4th UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has a short but pertinent commentary from last Thursday, in which he points out that “Hugo Chavez is controversial because of American aspirations to global military hegemony. People who vocally oppose those aspirations find themselves subjected to a massive amount of scrutiny of their human rights record that leaders who support it manage to completely avoid.”