The death of Hugo Chavez marks the end of an era in South American politics. He was the figurehead of neo-Marxist politics in South America, a modern day reincarnation of Bolivar, and an outspoken critic of United States foreign policy.
His 14-year presidency saw a period of radical political and social transformation in Venezuela. His nationalization of the oil industry was a huge source of income for the money-strapped country, which used the income to pay for public health and education. Much of his support came from the lower classes, which saw him as a hero and savior. While some praised him for his efforts to combat poverty in Venezuela, he was also widely criticized for leaving the economy relatively undeveloped. The economy has remained depended on oil and petroleum products, and has seen little infrastructure development during his presidency.
Chavez’s most memorable legacy, however, is his rhetoric. His impassioned attacks on the United States are legendary, particularly the one where he refers to former President Bush as “the devil.” He condemned the U.S. for its capitalist economy, an ironic claim considering the strong trade relationship between the two countries. While his ideology may not have resonated with everyone, his critics and supporters alike recognized his undeniable charisma and energy.
Our understanding of his accomplishments will always be clouded by his relationship with the United States. For years he had been depicted as the heir to Fidel Castro’s place as one of our country’s greatest opponents. His legacy of accomplishments fighting disease and poverty in Venezuela will be overshadowed by his legacy of America bashing.
The Spectator editorial board consists of Jenna Ramsey, Tess Riski, Christopher Salsbury, Nick Turner, Bill Goldstein, Shelby Barnes, Cameron Peters, and Mandy Rusch. Signed commentaries reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Spectator. The views expressed in these editorials are not necessarily the views of Seattle University.