Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez is dead. As irritating as he could be at times, in the grand scheme of things he was just another buffoonish Latin American thug in a long string of such men. His populist/socialist policies helped the poor in some aspects, but they also harmed those very same people in others. He leaves his nation in economic and social chaos, in many ways a disaster:
Plagued by high inflation, food shortages, power outages, and mounting debt, Venezuela has become one of the most economically dysfunctional nations in the Western Hemisphere. It has also become one of the most murderous. According to the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV), the country suffered no fewer than 21,692 homicides in 2012, up from 19,336 in 2011. Its national murder rate (73 per 100,000) is among the highest anywhere in the world, and easily the highest in South America. The homicide rate in Caracas is much, much steeper — the OVV has estimated that it was 200 per 100,000 in 2011 — making Venezuela’s capital arguably the most dangerous city on earth.
Read the whole thing for a litany of bad news and real pain that morons like Sean Penn so breezily dismiss. What Nick Gillespie notes on this occasion applies to Penn and the rest of the Chavez apologists:
"It's stunning what people will excuse if the right magic words are sprinkled over the repression."
Given the long history of such excuses, I'm not so sure it's stunning as simply appalling and depressing.
The best that can be said about Chavez is that at some point he probably had good intentions, but in the end, like all the dictators before and all the dictators to come, the good intentions are never a match for the temptations and corruption of power. He wound up as just another Generalissimo, albeit one from the left.