Hugo Chávez (1954–2013) was the socialist president of Venezuela. Although he was democratically elected and didn't make any openly autocratic moves, he engaged in a lot of demagoguery and was seen by some opponents as progressively creeping toward dictator status. However, the three elections won by Chavez were (officially) deemed free and fair by the international community.
He had a bit of a messiah complex, being assured that God was prepared to remove all obstacles to his goals for Venezuela.
 Political positions
He was a fierce opponent of neoliberalism and imperialism, and as a result very critical of the policies of the United States, particularly those of George W. Bush. According to the US government and media he was becoming increasingly autocratic. Other Americans felt very supportive of him. Neither side really knows unless they go to Venezuela and experience the consequences of his "rule". Chávez is very fond of saying that everyone wants to overthrow him and taking actions against them: examples include failure to renew the license of a private television station that he alleged was calling for his violent overthrow. He also tried to eliminate term limits - this was done through a popular referendum that eventually failed. In account of this first failure and his obvious dissatisfaction, he called the people of his country to yet another election, and after an aggressive campaign, he won with six million votes in favor versus five million against. He also nationalized the profits of the state oil company PDVSA, raised the literacy level of Venezuela, and enjoys using profane language on national television for 8 hours straight every Sunday.
 Personal views
 Good things Chavez did
After taking power in 1998, he used Venezuelan oil revenues to try to raise the standard of living of poor Venezuelans. He formed programs attempting to improve universal health care, education, and affordable housing. Venezuelans also enjoy more civil liberties than before the Chavez era. He accused many Venezuelan media outlets of sedition, but taken comparatively few steps to censor them. In 2006, he instituted a program to offer, through the national oil company's subsidiary Citgo, large amounts of low-priced heating oil for needy Americans. He ended this program shortly before Barack Obama's inauguration, but quickly bowed to public pressure and restored it again. He instituted a constitutional referendum and allowed the Venezuelan people to vote on a new constitution, and called many more referenda on significant questions.
 Worrisome observations
 Dictatorial status
Despite his Chomsky fanboyism and the fact that he still remained subject to the popular vote, he also pushed through the legislature the ability to make laws on his own, which is kind of the essence of being a dictator. The legislature did have to ratify any changes he made, although at the time the entire government structure was staffed by Chávez supporters.
Chávez also attempted to remove term limits and sought the ability to override democratically elected provincial governors, but when the referendum failed, he graciously accepted it as the will of the people — for all of two years, until he held another referendum on his term limits, which passed. 
 Labor issues
Despite Chávez's leftist image, his relations with organized labor were spotty at best. Venezuela's state owned oil company, PDVSA, and its employees and management, as well as the main labor federation, CTV, were primary sources of opposition to Chavez. Following a December 2002 general strike (that effectively put the country in a standstill), called by CTV and supported by PDVSA workers, Chavez purged 19,000 employees from PDVSA's rolls and stacked the management with Chavez loyalists. In 2003 a rival pro-Chavez labor federation, the UNT (not to be confused with the political party), was formed in an attempt to lessen the anti-Chavez influence of CTV. As a result, during the 2006 elections, the head of PDVSA (as well as Venezuela's energy minister) told PDVSA workers to either support Chavez or lose their jobs. Since the stacking of PDVSA management with Chavez' friends, oil production in Venezuela is down 50%. Venezuela is (or was) the 5th largest oil supplier in the world, and the U.S. oil company Citgo is 100% owned by PDVSA.
 Support for terrorism
Chávez had some other troubling associates, specifically a man named Raúl Reyes, who was the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). When Colombia launched a raid against FARC which crossed Ecuador's border, Chávez threatened to attack Colombia if they pursued FARC terrorists into his country. Since that time, there have been many disclosures of financial support for FARC. There is also proof of (at least) partial support of the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) terrorist group: indeed, one former member of ETA, Arturo Cabillas, has formed part of the Chávez government.
 Conspiracy theories
Chávez also consistently claimed that the US is about to invade Venezuela, ostensibly to remove him and subjugate the Venezuelan people under its ironbooted Yankee imperialism. His evidence was a few military personnel in Colombia and the fact that American servicepeople have been on some nearby Dutch islands for years. Chavez accused the United States of using a weather-based weapon system to cause the 2010 Haitian earthquake, which he believes shall ultimately be used against Iran. In 2011 the United States denied Chávez's claim that the United States could be using a secret weapon to inflict cancer upon Latin American leaders. His claim came during a televised speech in which he questioned the improbability of multiple Latin American leaders being afflicted with cancer in such a short period of time, believing his secret cancer weapon hypothesis to be more probable. Chávez later denied that he was making rash accusations, more just thinking aloud. Those affected by cancer include:
- Hugo Chávez – incumbent President of Venezuela, confirmed in 2011 that he had undergone treatment for cancer (and died from it in 2013)
- Dilma Rousseff – current President of Brazil, announced in 2009 that she was undergoing treatment for lymphoma
- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – President of Brazil, from 2003 to 2010. Lula, a smoker for 40 years, was diagnosed with throat cancer
- Fernando Lugo – incumbent President of Paraguay, was diagnosed in 2010 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – serving President of Argentina, was in 2011 diagnosed with thyroid cancer
 Civil rights
Later in his presidency Chavez grew increasingly intolerant towards his opposition. In 2007, he failed to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), an opposition television station that participated in the 2002 coup against him. RCTV continued as a cable network, but early in 2010, it was removed from the networks along with several other cable channels for, i.a., refusing to broadcast Chavez's speeches and not showing enough soap operas in the afternoon.
 Religious fanaticism
Chavez took to saying that God would fix all of Venezuela's current problems, because God was a socialist like him. In particular, despite forecasts from climate scientists that a drought that seriously affected hydroelectric power generation on the country's main dam during early 2010 would continue for quite some time, Chavez was convinced that God and nature would do so much sooner, overruling El Nino in favor of the Bolivarian revolution.
 Support for acknowledged dictators
To go along with Chavez's own dictatorial flirtations, he is on record as supporting leaders who are acknowledged on most hands to be dictators. He palled about considerably with Fidel Castro of Cuba, whom he befriended when touring Latin America in search of support for his Bolivarian Revolution. He later joined Castro in supporting the Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi against the growing insurgency in that country, stating that people opposing Gaddafi are involved in a big U.S.-led conspiracy to colonize the place.
 Politicization of education
Chavez froze the budgets for the traditional public universities, where a number of his political opponents are stationed, and established a new system of schools under the name of "Bolivarian University." These institutions, whose criteria for admission consist largely of being able to show up to class, have a primarily political purpose: they are aimed at quickly training a large body of Qualified Professionals to, i.a., staff public health care centers (thus allowing Chavez to make good on his campaign promises) and engage in radical journalism that will counter the influence of the country's Biased Neoliberal Media. The curriculum there has been criticized as "thinly veiled propaganda," and concerns have been raised about how all the new college graduates (the university had 180,000 students before it graduated any) will be able to be employed in a manner fully utilizing their skills.
In an interview, the rector of the Bolivarian University confirmed that there is a direct political goal to the university's programs, as the university expects its graduates to learn commitment to the "transformation of society." The rector also responded to the concerns about the potential underemployment of the university's graduates by evading them, first by claiming that when they speak of "work" for the graduates they do not mean jobs, and secondly with a lot of the usual slop about how "our job isn't to create professionals, but to empower people."
 Cheap oil for the poor
Chávez executed a humanitarian propaganda coup in the winter of 2006-2007 by performing an end-run around the State Department, negotiating an arrangement for low cost heating oil to be delivered to needy households in Massachusetts directly with a former Massachusetts Congresscritter.
This program continued through the winters of 2008 to 2012.
 Convoluted violence
In 2007 anti-Chávez students were fired upon by masked gunmen. Many suggested that Chávez was trying to suppress those who would vote against referenda to give him more power; on the other hand, the referenda were expected to pass easily. The gunmen were identified by university officials as members of a paramilitary group loyal to Chávez.
 Conservatives and Chávez
Chávez became something of a liberal bogeyman to many conservatives. This ignores that fact that, other than oil, Chávez had no weapons to wield against the United States. His military was a joke and other states were starting to turn against him. However, many conservatives still treated him as an imminent danger to the United States and he probably has Weapons of Mass Destruction.
This fact may be why the Bush Administration did not clamor for war against Venezuela, unlike say, Iran or Syria. (Clamoring for war does not necessarily mean actually going to war.) Also, the reason(s) for war in Iraq simply don't exist in Venezuela. This raises the question, if Venezuela is antagonistic, has a weak military, but has oil, was the War in Iraq entirely about oil? Reasonable minds can differ on this question.
 Fox News
The morons at Fox News seem to have great difficulty in understanding that there is a difference between Hugo Chávez and César Chávez. Well, who can blame Fox, they are just two of that kind of people.
- "I am the spirit of César Chávez."
"Why do you look like Cesar Romero?"
"Because you don't know what César Chávez looks like."
- -- The spirit of César Chávez and Homer Simpson.
 TV ventures
Chávez had a television show in Venezuela, titled Aló Presidente. It essentially consists of him talking into a camera for several hours (with occasional singing and dancing), sort of like the O'Reilly Factor, except the Factor makes a tacit acknowledgment that other views exist. And doesn't have singing and dancing. In May of 2009, Chávez broadcast his program for four days straight (with breaks).
 ¿Por qué no te callas?
At the 2007 Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, Chávez continuously interrupted Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's speech by denouncing José María Aznar (Zapatero's predecessor as Spanish PM) as a fascist and as someone "less human than snakes". Zapatero (widely known to be very much opposed to Aznar's policies) defended Aznar by pointing out that he had been chosen by the Spanish people as their legitimate representative. Although the organization switched off Chávez's microphone to stop him, he continued to interrupt Zapatero's speech. And then, in a glorious moment, King Juan Carlos I leaned forward, turned towards Chávez and told him "¿Por qué no te callas?" ("Why don't you [just] shut up?"). The king used familiar rather than formal Spanish, which is highly disrespectful when used outside of close personal or family relationships. Hence he spoke to him like an adult might speak towards an insolent child. This phrase soon became a meme, with T-shirts, mugs and assorted memorabilia being produced and sold everywhere in the Spanish-speaking world. Unfortunately, Chávez never took up on the request, and it took cancer to silence him.
 See also
- ↑ Background note: Venezuela. U.S. Department of State.
- ↑ Reuters
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3524760.stm
- ↑ http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1157172,00.html
- ↑ http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2009/0109/p25s02-woam.html
- ↑ The Guardian: New Venezuela hands Chavez wide powers
- ↑ For example, one of the powers given to the original dictators, in the Roman Republic, was the power to rule by decree.
- ↑ The Guardian: Hugo Chávez wins referendum allowing indefinite re-election
- ↑ Bloomberg inflation 20%
- ↑ food shortages
- ↑ Guardian - food shortages.
- ↑ The Guardian: Laptop emails link Venezuela to Colombian guerrillas
- ↑ The New York Times: Colombia Is Flashpoint in Chávez’s Feud With U.S.
- ↑ http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/01/21/hugo-chavez-mouthpiece-says-hit-haiti-earthquake-weapon/
- ↑ BBC News: US rejects Hugo Chavez remarks on Latin America cancer
- ↑ http://www.rethinkvenezuela.com/news/05-30-07la.html
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6215815.stm
- ↑ http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100124/D9DE3G5G0.html
- ↑ http://www.stabroeknews.com/2010/news/regional/03/11/chavez-trusts-god-and-nature-in-power-crisis/
- ↑ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/06/AR2011030603080.html?tid=wp_featuredstories
- ↑ http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5197
- ↑ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/24/AR2006052402444.html
- ↑ http://www.zcommunications.org/revolutionary-university-by-maria-ejilda-castellano
- ↑ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/03/world/americas/03venez.html
- ↑ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/14/AR2007111402084.html?wpisrc=newsletter
- ↑ For example, Pat Robertson called for his execution.
- ↑ See Iraq war
- ↑ ireport.com
- ↑ [http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2012/12/20121231819885930.html according to this, anyway
- ↑ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/29/AR2009052903379.html