Friday, March 08, 2013

Are there Changes in Store for Venezuela?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Chavez: Inside the Coup
Political Assassinations: Chavez Knew US Special Services Were After Him

By Nil Nikandrov
Global Research, March 25, 2013
Hugo Chavez was not the man obsessed by the thought he was being followed and watched, that’s what the propaganda tried to make him look like. He was a politician who faced the reality and knew how hated he was in Washington for opposing the United States on all political or economic issues. He treated seriously the threats coming from presidents Bush and Obama, the State Department and the Pentagon.He knew well the Western special services had a diverse arsenal of means to physically liquidate people… Fidel Castro shared his own experience, there had been over 600 assassination attempts to kill him committed by the CIA and US military intelligence. Even a limited number of documents declassified prove the special services went to any length, including snipers and poison, to do the job. Fidel accused him of being carefree and told him to watch around. He said new technology appeared, it was not safe to take the food one was offered. He told Chavez: «Chávez take care. These people [the Americans] have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat… a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what».
The President and the security service were concerned about massive Western propaganda than demonized Chavez, presenting him as a threat to “free world”, religion, private property and traditional family values. Some people subject to systematic emotional effect become prone to committing terrorist acts. According to statistics, there had been dozens of assassination attempts against Chavez committed by deranged people coming armed to take part in meetings and demonstrations. Some law enforcement personnel fell victim to such impact. In February 2008 some National Guard officers were arrested accused of taking part in an assassination attempt. In September 2008 a group of servicemen was detained while preparing an attack with the use of grenade launchers against Air Force 1.
The US special services made the first attempts to have it over and done with Chavez in the days of the 1998 presidential campaign. A group of professional hitmen, hired by the CIA in Columbia and the Dominican Republic, followed the candidate during his campaign in out-of-the-way places of Venezuela. Snipers lying in ambush were seen near the places where the President made public speeches. After that, hunting terrorists trying to accomplish the mission to kill Chavez became a daily routine for Bolivarian security services. In May 2009 Frederic Laurent Bouquet, a Frenchman, and three Dominicans were detained. There were sniper rifles, machine guns, grenades and a kilogram of explosives found in the apartment. The group was tasked with Chavez assassination, According to Venezuelan Internal Affairs Minister Tarek El – Aissami, Bouquet was a military on active service in the armed forces of one of European countries. According to Internet leaks, the US services arranged to send the French military intelligence officer to Venezuela.
The victory of Chavez at the 2012 presidential election was inevitable. Accordingly, in the period 2009-beginning of 2010 the mission of eliminating Chavez was on the US intelligence community’s priority list. The traditional methods, for instance, murders committed by deranged persons, aircraft crashes and the like, were off the table. Using well known poisons were out of the question too. There had been too many cases the Latin American leaders were neutralized this way. A bullet, an aircraft crash or poison would indicate who stood behind the action.
So, contamination leading to an incurable decease was chosen as the way to do the job. It was technically possible. José Vicente Rangel wrote in the article Cancer Inoculated published in the 03.17.13 edition of Ultimas Noticias newspaper that the experiments on creating cancerous growth had been conducted in the US for no less that forty years. The laboratories situated in Fort Detrick, Maryland, conduct clandestine research on biological arms; the National Cancer Institute is situated there too. The Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research functioning under the CIA and the Pentagon supervision is an example.
As the Internet sources report, a special virus cancer program has been successfully fulfilled there. The cancer virus gets into blood and lymph. Access to DNA makes the virus personalized and more effective. It brings to mind a WikiLeaks post –the document with State Department instructions to the US embassy in Paraguay to stealthily get DNA of the four candidates for presidency. It mentioned all four on purpose to cover the one who was of real interest – the left wing forces candidate Fernando Lugo, a potential ally of Hugo Chavez, who supported the idea of creating “an axis of populist states” on the continent. Two years after the election, Lugo fell ill of lymphatic cancer, a less dangerous form of the decease. He had to go for cure to Brazil, while Vice-President Federico Franco, the favorite son of the CIA and the State Department, ruled the country.
The Latin American cancer epidemic spread around striking left-wing presidents, the fact couldn’t go unnoticed. Fernando Lugo, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rouseff, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner were given this diagnosis –they received the Black Spot, the warning that it is not safe to oppose the US interests on the international scene. The death of Hugo Chavez demonstrated the implications that may follow. For someone who is not convinced the US is involved in cleansing trying to get rid of unfriendly leaders, suffice it to recall the fate of many influential politicians in many regions of strategic importance. The punitive actions are not over. They swoop on Syria, Iran and Pakistan are next. Then it’ll be the turn of BRICS members, the US will do its best to prevent it from becoming an international powerful force of the XXI century.
Chavez warned about it. He always called a spade a spade. For him, the United States was “an evil empire”, an aggressor, a terrorist state constantly waging wars to conquer the territories rich in resources… He called upon his colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean basin to create alliances with teeth to counter the US policy. He paid dearly for it. The leadership of Venezuela and the leading Latin America leaders, who were friendly with Chavez, don’t believe he died for natural causes. The guesses it was a special operation are voiced more and more often. On the day of Chavez’s death, Vice President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, said in an address to the nation that “there’s no doubt that Commandante Chavez’s health came under attack by the enemy.” He said there was solid ground for launching an investigation.
According to him, “We have not a single doubt and at the proper moment we will convene a medical board to confirm that Chavez was attacked.” He linked Chavez’s case with that of Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, whose death, Maduro said, was caused by poisoning by the Israelis. According to the findings of laboratory research conducted at the Institute de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, Arafat was poisoned by polonium – 210. Nicolas Maduro said Chavez was taken tissue samples to make a diagnosis. The Patient’s name undisclosed, the samples were sent to Brazil, China, Russia and even the USA. The reply was the same, the cancer cells have special features, like unusual intensiveness of propagation and multiplication never encountered before in medical practice.
According to Maduro, a special investigation commission tasked to comprehensively review the details of Chavez demise will be created after the election on April 14. The news came the Bolivarian government plans to pay a million dollars reward to those who will help to make precise the circumstances and concrete perpetrators of the crime – the murder of President Chavez.
Hugo Chavez: Enemy of the US Empire, Marxist and Money Power Stooge
March 27, 2013

Hugo Chávez was loved by many, both in Venezuela and abroad. His fierce resistance of US Imperialism was welcome and much appreciated world-wide. But his domestic policies were openly Marxist and his most notable legacy is the Bolivarian Alliance for the America's, aiming at social, economic and political integration of Latin American Nations. In short: he was a globalist.
By Anthony Migchels for Henry Makow and Real Currencies
Hugo Chávez is no longer with us. We'll miss the old rascal: it's always pleasant to hear people denounce the US Empire. He also did much to alleviate at least the worst of the poverty suffered by millions in Venezuela. These people were tyrannically oppressed by the Empire's rule over Latin America, especially through its corporations. Millions will never forget him for it.
Resisting the Empire and helping so many out of the gutter in the process are surely noteworthy accomplishments. But we have been blinded so often by the old adage that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. And this is the case with Hugo Chávez too.
Was Chávez a mason? I guess he was. There is this masonic handshake with Obama. There are other signs. But I have not seen conclusive proof and it's not like he was flashing their signs all over the place, so let's reserve judgement until proof is delivered.His great example, Simon Bolivar, definitely was. Bolivar led the rise against Spanish rule in northern Latin America in the early 1800's. His masonic watchword was 'liberty', fitting well with that masonic construct known as the United States, which only a few decades earlier gained 'independence' from the City.He became the president of a major country, named Gran Colombia, which existed between 1819 and 1830. After gaining independence from Spain, the country succumbed to a power struggle between those wanting a strong centralized state and those looking for regional autonomy in a federation. Bolivar led the quest for centralization of power, an eternal tell tale of the real enemy. In 1830 Gran Colombia ceased to exist: the conflict ended when it fell apart in a number of smaller entities, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Later Panama seceded from Colombia.One of the Banker's more memorable, yet unknown defeats. It certainly didn't damage the reputation of their man Bolivar and that is probably not a coincidence. Money Power defeats are not part of the history they write, lest they might inspire others.
Chávez made the reliving of the Bolivarian dream a key part of his agenda. Venezuela is a fairly rich country because of its oil and Chávez invested billions upon billions in his project, called the
Bolivarian Alliance for the America's. It was Chávez' answer to the failed US driven 'Free Trade Area of the Americas'.
He financed FARC, a ridiculous outfit run by coke-dealers parading as Marxist champions of the people. True, they're probably not worse than the Empire run Government in Bogota. But it's always the same: the conflict itself is the goal and both protagonists either are directly run from the City, or are their most welcome stooges without realizing it.
The Marxist: did he really help the poor?
Chávez openly called for a 'socialism of the 21st century'. He denounced the Soviet Union as State Capitalism, which is a very apt description. But his own politics were similar in many respects. He created thousands of 'communal councils' throughout the country. In Russian that's 'soviets'. They are touted as wonderful examples of 'participatory democracy', but outfits like these are actually comfortably run from the top down with tools like the 'delphi method'.
He started tens of thousands of state-owned cooperatives, financed with government credit.
As a result, the private sector tanked: during his reign the number of private sector jobs declined with an astonishing 30%. Half of Venezuelans depend on the informal economy to survive. Public payrolls have ballooned.
Venezuela enjoyed an unprecedented oil-boom under Chávez and he used some of this money to build Social Services, alleviating the plight of the poor. Housing was a top priority for him and public spending on health also rose significantly, from 1.6% of GDP in 2000 to 7.7% in 2006. These are basically his main achievements. But an oil-boom will end and it remains to be seen whether the welfare state is sustainable with such a severely mauled private sector.
Chávez did absolutely nothing about the real issue: banking, debt and usury. The Venezuelan Central bank is State owned, like in most nations, except the US. But State owned means: providing State sanction to private banks to loot economy with their usury.
Its banks are private, many are run by his pals. There was a crisis in Venezuelan banking a few years ago, leading to nationalization of some of them. Meaning the Venezuelans were on the hook for their 'balances', better called black holes. He actually arrested a handful of bankers. But most were left to continue their plunder unscathed.
While he wisely paid off all debt to the IMF and the World Bank in 2008, Public Debt itself rose from $1400 per capita in 2002 to $3400 in 2010. During this time there was a major inflation, the Bolívar lost 90% of its value. Meanwhile, he fixed the Bolívar-Dollar exchange rate at only one third of the Dollar's real value, an incredible subsidy for Transnationals repatriating their profits and the wealthy importing luxury goods. The poor paid for this subsidy and it cost them untold billions.
In short: while redistributing wealth from the middle classes to the poor through taxation, monetary slavery, our real predicament, ruled supreme during his reign.
Chávez was a self-styled 'socialist-feminist', attacking paternal rights and the family.
"in 2008, during an event to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the National Institute of Women (which is now a government ministry) Chávez criticized machismo and declared himself a “convinced socialist-feminist”.
“Socialists must be feminists or they won’t be complete human beings. With the support of our women we must strengthen unity in Venezuela... We have to take firm steps towards...the total emancipation of gender and be more just with our women,” he said.
He added that women were condemned by history, but the “Bolivarian administration developed community plans against family violence and in favor of single mothers, which has meant huge
positive advances”." (Source)The results have been predictable: sexual degeneracy, single mums and escalating teen pregnancy.
Also not helping the poor is the fact that Venezuela succumbed to an incredible rise in crime under his watch. Hard to believe, but these days one is more likely to be murdered Caracas than in Kabul or Baghdad.
As usual with commie strongmen 'helping the poor', Hugo took good care of himself: he seems to have owned between one and two billion dollars at the time of his death. Not bad for a kid from the gutter.
Many people will never forget Hugo Chávez. He helped emancipate the poorest. He scolded the Empire.But his legacy is built on quicksand and in the typically Marxist way he did nothing to stop the root cause of poverty. All he did was destroy the private sector and the middle classes to give to the poor and to centralize power in Caracas by switching from a private economy to a State run one. The wealthy had nothing to fear and much to gain under his rule. He became very wealthy himself. Meanwhile he furthered the Internationalist agenda by laying the foundation for Latin American 'cooperation'.It remains difficult to see for many that the evil US Empire is 'opposed' by no less evil forces. Be it the Russian, Chinese or whatever leadership.Hugo Chávez was one of them.
US Plots Conquest of Venezuela in Wake of Chavez’ Death
By Tony Cartalucci
Global Research, March 07, 2013
Url of this article:
US corporate-financier funded think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), declared in its “post-Chávez checklist for US policymakers,” that the US must move quickly to reorganize Venezuela according to US interests. Upon its checklist were “key demands”:
The ouster of narco-kingpins who now hold senior posts in government
The respect for a constitutional succession
The adoption of meaningful electoral reforms to ensure a fair campaign environment and a transparent vote count in expected presidential elections; and
The dismantling of Iranian and Hezbollah networks in Venezuela
In reality, AEI is talking about dismantling entirely the obstacles that have prevented the US and the corporate-financier interests that direct it, from installing a client regime and extracting entirely Venezuela’s wealth while obstructing, even dismantling the progress and geopolitical influence achieved by the late President Hugo Chavez throughout South America and beyond.The AEI “checklist” continues by stating: Now is the time for US diplomats to begin a quiet dialogue with key regional powers to explain the high cost of Chávez’s criminal regime, including the impact of chavista complicity with narcotraffickers who sow mayhem in Colombia, Central America, and Mexico. Perhaps then we can convince regional leaders to show solidarity with Venezuelan democrats who want to restore a commitment to the rule of law and to rebuild an economy that can be an engine for growth in South America.Of course, by “Venezuelan democrats,” AEI means Wall Street-backed proxies like Henrique Capriles Radonski and his Primero Justicia (Justice First) political front, two entities the Western media is already gearing up to support ahead of anticipated elections.West Has Positioned Proxies to Strip Venezuela to the Bone After Chavez’ PassingPrimero Justicia (Justice First) was co-founded by Leopoldo Lopez and Julio Borges, who like Radonski, have been backed for nearly a decade by the US State Department. Primero Justicia and the network of foreign-funded NGOs that support it have been recipients of both direct and indirect foreign support for at least just as long.
US State Department document (archived) illustrating the role National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded NGOs play in supporting US-backed opposition figures in Venezuela. The US regularly fails to transparently list who is included in extensive funding NED provides opposition groups in Venezeula, so documents like this give a rare glimpse into the names and dynamics actually involved. As was suspected, NED money is going into networks providing support for current presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski. In this particular document, NED-funded Sumate’s legal trouble is described in relation to its attempted defense of Radonski. At the time this document was written, Radonski was in jail pending trial for his role in facilitating the 2002 US-backed failed coup against President Hugo Chavez. The document may still be online at the US State Department’s official website here.
All three co-founders are US educated – Radonski having attended New York’s Columbia University (Spanish), Julio Borges attending Boston College and Oxford (Spanish), and Leopoldo Lopez who attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (KSG), of which he is considered an alumni of (and here).
The Harvard Kennedy School, which hosts the notorious Belfer Center, includes the following faculty and alumni of Lopez, co-founder of the current US-backed opposition in Venezuela:
John P. Holdren, Samantha Power, Lawrence Summers, Robert Zoellick, (all as faculty), as well as Ban Ki-Moon (’84), Paul Volcker (’51), Robert Kagan (’91), Bill O’Reilly (’96), Klaus Schwab (’67), and literally hundreds of senators, ambassadors, and administrators of Wall Street and London’s current global spanning international order. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (KSG) is clearly one of several universities that form the foundation of both creating corporate-financier driven globalist-international policy, as well as cultivating legions of administrators to execute it.
To understand fully the implications of Lopez’ education it helps to understand the leadership and principles guiding Harvard’s mission statements, best exemplified by KSG’ Belfer Center, which to this day, lends its public support to Lopez and his Primero Justicia opposition party.
Image: John P. Holdren (bearded, left), an advocate for population reduction through forced sterilization overseen by a “planetary regime,” is just one of many “colorful” characters to be found within the halls of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government from which Primero Justicia co-founder Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela graduated. To this day,
KSG provides forums in support of US-backed opposition bids at seizing power in Venezuela.
Named after Robert Belfer of the Belco Petroleum Corporation and later, director of the failed Enron Corporation, the Belfer Center describes itself as being “the hub of the Harvard Kennedy School’s research, teaching, and training in international security affairs, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy.” Robert Belfer still sits in as an International Council Member.
Belfer’s director, Graham Allison provides an example of self-serving corporatism steering US policy. He was a founder of the Trilateral Commission, a director of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a consultant to the RAND Corporation, Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the advisory boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the shady International Energy Corporation, all according to his official Belfer Center bio.
Other questionable personalities involved as Belfer alumnus are Goldman Sachs, CFR member, and former-World Bank president Robert Zoellick. Sitting on the board of directors is CFR member and former Goldman Sachs consultant, Ashton Carter. There is also former director of Citigroup and Raytheon, former Director of Central Intelligence and CFR member John Deutch, who required a pardon by Clinton to avoid prosecution over a breach of security while fumbling his duties at the CIA. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Rothschild of Atticus Capital and RIT Capital Partners, Paul Volcker of the Federal Reserve, and former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff all serve as Belfer Center’s “advisers.”
Last but not least, there is John P. Holdren, also a Council on Foreign Relations member, science adviser to both President Clinton and President Obama, and co-author with Paul Ehrilich, of the now notorious “Ecoscience.” When Holdren isn’t brand-building for “Climate Disruption,” he is dreaming of a Malthusian fueled totalitarian global government that forcibly sterilizes the world’s population. He feared, erroneously, that overpopulation would be the end of humanity. He claimed in his hubris filled, fact deficient book, “The No Growth Society,” that by the year 2040, the United States would have a dangerously unsustainable population of 280 million he called “much too many.” The current US population is over 300 million, and despite reckless leadership and policies, it is still sustainable.
One could argue that Lopez’ education is in his past, independent of his current political activities, however, the interests driving the agenda of the Belfer Center are demonstrably still backing his Primero Justicia party’s bid for seizing power in Venezuela. Lopez, Radonski, and Borges are to this day still receiving substantial funding and support through NGO networks funded directly by the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy, and is clearly favored by the Western press. Furthermore, the CFR, Heritage Foundation, and other corporate-financier driven think-tanks have all come out in support of Radonski and Primero Justicia, in their bid to “restore democracy” American-style in Venezuela.
With Chavez’ passing, the names of these opposition figures will become mainstays of Western reporting ahead of anticipated elections the West is eager to have held – elections the West is well positioned to manipulate in favor of Lopez, Radonski, and Borges.
Whatever one may have thought about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his policies, he nationalized his nation’s oil, forcing out foreign multinational corporations, diversified his exports to reduce dependency on Western markets (with US exports at a 9 year low), and had openly opposed corporate-financier neo-imperialism across the globe. He was an obstruction to Western hegemony – an obstruction that has provoked overt, depraved jubilation from his opponents upon his death.
And while many critics are quick to claim President Chavez’ policies are a “failure,” it would be helpful to remember that the US, on record, has arrayed its vast resources both overtly and covertly against the Venezuelan people over the years to ensure that any system outside the West’s sphere of influence inevitably fails.
Dark Days Ahead.
Dark days indeed lay ahead for Venezuela, with the AEI “checklist” foreshadowing an “uprising,” stating:
As Venezuelan democrats wage that struggle against chavismo, regional leaders must make clear that Syria-style repression will never be tolerated in the Americas. We should defend the right of Venezuelans to struggle democratically to reclaim control of their country and its future. Only Washington can make clear to Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and Cuban leaders that, yes, the United States does mind if they try to sustain an undemocratic and hostile regime in Venezuela. Any attempt to suppress their self-determination with Chinese cash, Russian arms, Iranian terrorists, or Cuban thuggery will be met with a coordinated regional response.US military contractors and special forces had been caught operating in and around Venezuela. Just as there were warning signs in Syria years before the 2011 conflict began, the US’ intentions of provoking bloodshed and regime change in Venezuela stretch back as far as 2002. Just as Syria is now facing a Western-engineered proxy war, Venezuela will too, with the AEI already declaring US plans to wage a Syria-style proxy war in South America.The AEI also reminds readers of the West’s faux-human rights, “economic development,” and “democracy promotion” racket Hugo Chavez had ejected from Venezuela and displaced across parts of South America, and the West’s desire to reestablish it: US development agencies should work with friends in the region to form a task force of private sector representatives, economists, and engineers to work with Venezuelans to identify the economic reforms, infrastructure investments, security assistance, and humanitarian aid that will be required to stabilize and rebuild that country. Of course, the expectation will be that all the costs of these activities will be borne by an oil sector restored to productivity and profitability.
Finally, we need to work with like-minded nations to reinvigorate regional organizations committed to democracy, human rights, anti-drug cooperation, and hemispheric solidarity, which have been neutered by Chávez’s destructive agenda.
As the US openly funds, arms, and backs Al Qaeda in Syria, conducts global renditions, operates an international archipelago of torture dungeons, and is only now wrapping up a decade of subjugation and mass murder in Iraq and Afghanistan that is still claiming lives and jeopardizing the future of millions to this day, it is difficult to discern just who the AEI’s target audience is. It is most likely those who can read between the lines – the corporate-financier vultures waiting for the right moment to strip Venezuela to the bone.The fate of Venezuela lies in its people’s hands. Covert destabilization must be faced by the Venezuelan people, while the alternative media must do its best to unravel the lies already being spun ahead of long-planned operations in “post-Chavez Venezuela.” For the rest of us, we must identify the corporate-financier interests driving this agenda, – interests we most likely patronize on a daily basis, and both boycott and permanently replace them to erode the unwarranted influence they have used, and will continue to use against the Venezuelan people, as well as people across the globe.Copyright © 2013 Global Research
The Ghost of Hugo Chávez
How his economically disastrous, politically effective ideology will haunt the country he ruined

By William J. Dobson
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday after a two-year bout with cancer, a 14-year rule, three elections, and one coup attempt. The controversial leader, famous for his anti-imperialist rhetoric and policies, galvanized his nation's poor and antagonized both neighbors and overseas powers.
Even before Hugo Chávez died, he had become a ghost. A strange, unfamiliar quiet had fallen on Venezuela for weeks as people waited to hear the voice of the president who had been part of their daily lives for nearly 14 years. That’s because Chávez spoke to Venezuelans constantly. In his first 11 years in office, he addressed the nation, on average, every two days. His remarks, usually improvised, typically ran more than four hours. If you add up these talks, which all radio and television stations were required to broadcast, they would amount to 54 full days.
And then there was silence. Venezuelans last heard their president on Dec. 8 when he announced that he was returning to Havana for his fourth operation to treat a recurring bout of cancer. He wouldn’t return to Venezuela until Feb. 18, slipping into a military hospital in Caracas in the middle of the night. (His advisers later admitted that his ability to speak had been impaired by a tracheal tube that had been inserted to assist his breathing.) Chávez had made the trip home, but he never truly returned. He was present but could not be seen. The eerie quiet was only broken with the announcement, delivered by Vice President Nicolás Maduro late Tuesday, that the 58-year-old president was dead.
What has Chávez bequeathed his fellow Venezuelans? The hard facts are unmistakable: The oil-rich South American country is in shambles. It has one of the world’s highest rates of inflation, largest fiscal deficits, and fastest growing debts. Despite a boom in oil prices, the country’s infrastructure is in disrepair—power outages and rolling blackouts are common—and it is more dependent on crude exports than when Chávez arrived. Venezuela is the only member of OPEC that suffers from shortages of staples such as flour, milk, and sugar. Crime and violence skyrocketed during Chávez’s years. On an average weekend, more people are killed in Caracas than in Baghdad and Kabul combined. (In 2009, there were 19,133 murders in Venezuela, more than four times the number of a decade earlier.) When the grisly statistics failed to improve, the Venezuelan government simply stopped publishing the figures.
The political ideology Chávez left behind, Chavismo, was a demonstrable failure for the Venezuelan people, but it is not as if it ever failed Chávez himself. Despite his government’s poor showing, the Comandante’s platform secured him another six years in office, with a decisive 11-point victory, only five months ago. Will Maduro, Chávez’s handpicked successor, and his other cronies be able to pick up where the former president left off?
His successors would be in better shape if Chávez had been a typical South American strongman. But he wasn’t just another caudillo who stuffed ballot boxes and rounded up his enemies. As I describe in my book The Dictator’s Learning Curve, Chávez’s rule was far more sophisticated than such heavy-handed regimes. Like many authoritarian leaders, Chávez centralized power for his own use. Not long after taking office in 1999, he controlled every branch of government, the armed forces, the central bank, the state-owned oil company, most of the media, and any private sector business he chose to expropriate. But Venezuela never experienced massive human rights abuses. Dissidents didn’t disappear in the night, and for all Chavez’s professed love for Fidel Castro, his regime was never as repressive as Castro’s tropical dictatorship.
And unlike Castro and many other autocrats, Chávez didn’t fear elections; He embraced them. Most opposition leaders will tell you that Venezuelan elections are relatively clean. The problem isn’t Election Day—It’s the other 364 days. Rather than stuffing ballot boxes, Chávez understood that he could tilt the playing field enough to make it nearly impossible to defeat him. Thus, the regime’s electoral wizards engineered gerrymandering schemes that made anything attempted in the American South look like child’s play. Chávez’s campaign coffers were fed by opaque slush funds holding billions in oil revenue. The government’s media dominance drowned out the opposition. Politicians who appeared formidable were simply banned from running for office. And the ruling party became expert in using fear and selective intimidation to tamp down the vote. Chávez took a populist message and married it to an autocratic scheme that allowed him to consolidate power. The net effect over Chávez’s years was a paradoxical one: With each election Venezuela lost more of its democracy.
As with Che Guevara, Chávez’s face may appear on T-shirts for decades to come, but Chavismo as a political project is not possible without Chávez.* As a guiding force, there was no real substance to it beyond the man at the center. What does it stand for? Populism, socialism, militarism, xenophobia, nationalism, Marxism, anti-Americanism, class warfare, Bolivarian revolution, lawlessness, corruption, financial collapse—it depends on where you stand. It was always an amalgam, never something pure, clear, or fixed. If it had any staying power, it wasn’t because it helped Venezuelans build something sustainable. Again, the country is in near ruins. Rather, Chavismo served only to showcase the man who propounded it. A man whose humble origins and charismatic personality helped forge a connection with the country’s poor, a population who had long been excluded from politics. A man whose style, voice, and methods were so unpredictable that it took his opponents more than a decade to even understand whom they were opposing.
The question now is what will follow. According to the constitution, the government should hold new presidential elections within 30 days. If that does happen, Vice President Maduro will most likely square off against Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who lost to Chávez last October. Despite his defeat in the last presidential polls, Capriles is a formidable campaigner who has twice defeated senior officials with close ties to Chávez in state elections. Still, if the election is held on schedule, a mixture of grief and nostalgia for the country’s fallen leader will likely give Maduro the upper hand.
How would a President Maduro respond to the crisis conditions he would inherit? When Chávez faced criticism for one government failing or another, his charisma and connection to voters let him lay blame at the feet of his ministers. (Chávez cycled through nearly 200 Cabinet ministers in his first 10 years.) Maduro lacks the Comandante’s wit and flare. His chief quality appears to have been his willingness to do Chávez’s bidding, without question. And unlike his predecessor, Maduro may not even be primarily concerned with holding the opposition in check. He will know that there are plenty of politicians from his own camp waiting to take advantage of his first misstep.
All of which may spell a more insecure, paranoid, and perhaps aggressive presidential palace. Indeed, Maduro’s statement informing Venezuelans of Chávez’s death wasted no time in engaging in bizarre, politically charged scapegoating. “We have no doubt, the time will come in history when we can create a scientific commission to show that Comandante Chávez was attacked with this disease,” said Maduro on Tuesday. “We already have plenty of clues about this, it’s a very serious matter that will have to be investigated by a special committee of scientists.” Maduro also announced the expulsion of two American military attachés and accused the United States of trying to destabilize the regime.
Combative words, a warning of U.S. military intervention, and oddball conspiracy theories meant to encourage suspicion and distrust were always basic ingredients in Chávez’s rhetoric. The fear now is that Chavismo’s blend of bravado and insecurity could swing unpredictably in the hands of whichever cronies succeed Chávez. In a country as polarized as Venezuela, having political figures tell their supporters that the people who disagree with them may be responsible for their beloved leader’s demise comes dangerously close to throwing a match on a tinderbox.
Caracas remained quiet on Tuesday night, but the calm may be fleeting. In the days and weeks to come, we should expect Chávez’s political heirs to continue to pull pages from his songbook. But we already know that none of them can sing a tune like Chávez.
Read more of Slate's Hugo Chávez coverage. 
Also See:
Chavez, Venezuela, & Socialism
02 June 2009
Are Suspicious 'Suicides' Really Government Murders?
(Part 2)
25 March 2013