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March 10th 2013 print

Daryl McCann

Saint Hugo of Venezuela

El Presidente did not lack for toadies and flatterers while ruining one of the world's oil-rich nations, but that gushing is as nothing beside the tears and tributes inspired by news of his death. Mussolini should have been so lucky


There are moments while watching the ABC when you understand what it meant to be a patriot living in Vichy France. One week those who control the public airwaves are ridiculing a genuine freedom fighter, Geert Wilder, and the next our state-run broadcaster is mourning the loss of one of the archenemies of Western civilisation, Venezuela’s comandante president, Hugo Chavez.


No doubt ABC management would argue Lisa Millar’s news report did briefly allude to the critics who admonished Chávez for being an “old-style Latin American dictator”, but the main thrust of her narrative was a sympathetic account of the “son of a working class family” who drew “support from poor Venezuelans”. The ABC story allowed old footage of Chávez to define his self-styled Bolivarian Revolution as the way to “give power to the poor” and bring “life and happiness for all the people” of Venezuela. The ABC website agreed that, yes, some “critics accused him of leading a personality cult” – really? – but that his grieving followers would always remember El Comandante “as a charismatic and robust president”. This apologia for what Aunty terms the “colourful career” of Hugo Chavez now passes for even-handedness at their ABC.

El Comandante’s most astonishing feat in his 14 years at the helm was to trash the Venezuelan economy, despite the fact his country possesses some of the largest oil and gas reserves on the planet. The Great Communicator’s death on March 5 has seen Leftist blog-sites around the world attempting to convince us that Chávez’s war against “neo-liberalism” and “turbo-charged financial capitalism” did wonders for Venezuela. The lowest GDP and highest inflation in Latin America, a Mexico-esque crime rate — all this counts for nothing, especially if you are a anarcho-communist fantasist and do not have to live there.

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See also: Commandante Catastrophe
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The absence of basic foodstuffs in supermarkets, according to one Orwellian rationalization on the Internet, can be explained away by an increase in consumption on the part of the poor: Though often cited as a major failure of the Chávez government, it is actually the result of millions of poor Venezuelans eating better and consuming more than ever before. As one Venezuelan recently said to an opposition activist who insisted that empty supermarket shelves were proof of the government’s failures and demanded to know, “where is the milk?”

“The milk,” he replied, “is in the bellies of Venezuela’s poor.”

Squealer in Orwell’s Animal Farm could not have said it better. Meanwhile, President Chávez amassed in office a personal fortune reputedly worth $2 billion, making him the 59th wealthiest person in all of South America – not bad for the “son of a working class family”. Is this what the gormless Jimmy Carter was alluding to last week when he eulogized El Comandante’s “bold leadership”?

Hugo Chávez made many boasts over the years, but the one we might actually take seriously is that his Bolivarian Revolution points the way to “the socialism of the twenty-first century”. Although Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has announced plans for the late president’s body to be preserved and displayed “for eternity” in the manner of Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi-Minh and Mao Zedong, El Comandante’s grab-bag, populist ideology has less in common with Marxism-Leninism than the political-philosophy of one Benito Mussolini. Consider the similarities:

Both El Comandante and Il Duce were demagogues, both were reluctant to nationalise the entire economy and yet each wanted to co-ordinate every aspect of society. Both constructed ridiculously outsized bureaucracies, both shared an enmity towards classic liberalism, both despised “plutocracy”, both made out they were religious, both were jingoists, both forged alliances with malevolent foreign powers, both utilized a thuggish militia to intimidate domestic foes, and both employed bread and circuses to bestow “life and happiness for all the people”.

The one positive for Mussolini is that at least he did not initiate antisemitic policies until late in the day, and then only reluctantly. The same cannot be said of Hugo Chávez. On the subject of alliances with malevolent foreign powers, Chávez supported Muammar Gaddafi until the bitter end, provided arms and supplies for Bashar al-Assad’s war of extermination against the Syrian people, exported uranium to the theocratic-fascist regime in Iran, and constructed close ties with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah.

After the official announcement of Chavez’s demise, actor-activist Sean Penn issued the following communiqué: “Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had”. In another time and place Penn might be called a traitor or collaborator, but in this politically correct era I suppose we must make do with “sadly misinformed idealist” or “the heart of a lion, brain of a donkey” or some such. Penn’s compadre, Hollywood director Oliver Stone, weighed in with his own profound thoughts at this moment of tragic import: “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chávez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.” Whatever.

The least amusing aspect to Chávez’s 14 years of misrule, apart from escalating lawlessness in Venezuela, was the bond he fostered with the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For the modern left, shaken by the implosion of the Soviet Empire between 1989-91, the Chávez-Ahmadinejad Axis promised one more shot at challenging Pax Americana. The leftist daydream appeared to have some substance this week when Ahmadinejad not only praised his departed friend as a fine “anti-imperialist figure” but suggested Comandante Chávez would return on resurrection day in the company of Jesus Christ and the Hidden Imam, a revered character in Iran’s Shi’ite version of Islam. All bets, however, are now off because the clerics of Tehran have decreed the very idea to be blasphemous. Advocates of a Marxist-Islamist alliance against Washington D.C., please note: the notion of using Islam as a stalking horse to bring down American hegemony and so facilitate a millennium of global peace – a world-wide people’s community or volksgemeinschaft, no less – can only end in tears.

This morning I braved Philip Adams’ column in The Weekend Australian to see what one of Australia’s more prominent Chávez lovers had to say about the passing of El Comandante. No mention of Chávez, but a laugh-out-loud impersonation – just kidding – of the type of person Adams wishes to see as our new Pope. Adams’ “reformist” successor to Benedict XVI’s would commence his pontificate by dumping Catholic theological gobbledygook (if not “poisoned by the Curia”, of course) and reach “out to those of other faiths or no faith” and fight “for social justice”.

Hallelujah! Fearless Phil had written about Hugo Chávez after all. Pity the Man in Black remained unaware of the latest edict from Tehran. Come resurrection day, alas, no return journey for Comandante Chávez — or Comrade Adams.

Daryl McCann’s blog can be found here