With the aging and waning of outdated Soviet groupie Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez became this hemisphere’s smiling face of tyranny, hatred and envy.
The Venezuelan president built the largest glass house in South America and proceeded to throw stones, from his ascent in 1999 until his death Tuesday at 58: He made a cottage industry out of hating the U.S. and its supposed imperialism, while gaily parading his chokehold on his own people.
There’s no hypocrite like a cheeky hypocrite.
Even that wasn’t enough. Like Castro before him, Chávez spread discontent and violent oppression throughout the region, and warmly embraced like-minded autocrats and terrorists around the world – most notably the world’s leading terrorists in Tehran. While claiming to be the poor’s sugar daddy, he fomented bitterness and perfected paranoia, using much of his country’s oil wealth to unnecessarily militarize and antagonize the region.
He wanted nothing as badly as to be in the court of despots. He was. He was the court jester.
We pray his passing will remove the yoke from the Venezuelan people, and that it will usher in a new era of peace and good will in the region – a sort of Arab spring for the Western Hemisphere, only with a better outcome.
The immediate signs are not encouraging, as Chávez’s handpicked successor, likely to do well in the coming election, moved quickly to ramp up the anti-Americanism: He booted a couple of American diplomats and bizarrely claimed the U.S. had somehow conspired to give Chávez cancer.
The American people have nothing against the people of Venezuela. We hope they have the gumption to choose freedom and friendship over continued hatred and envy. But it’s hard, when a population has been fed a steady diet of animus.
There is nothing more important in the affairs of humankind than freedom.
And nothing will set you free quite like the truth – and the death of an overlord.