Chavez’s cheerleaders: parasites on US impotence
Arvamus 08 Mar 2013  EWR
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Far from doing battle with US imperial hegemony, Hugo Chavez and his Western fans merely danced on the grave of America’s withered global clout.

Brendan O’Neill, spiked
What was the secret of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s success? His fans in leftist, literary and luvvie sets in the West would have us believe it was his political dynamism. They say it was Chavez’s ideological clear-mindedness, coupled with a desire among people around the world to see radical policies trump neoliberal dogma, which allowed him to win an impressive four presidential elections and to stay in power for 14 years.


I’m not convinced. Looked at coolly, and a bit more historically, the key contributor to the rise and global stardom of Chavez seems to have been the decline of American clout rather than the resuscitation and return to world politics of state-socialist ideals. The decisive factor in the Chavez story was not his own political vision, but the creeping incapacitation of American power and influence in global affairs, including in Latin America. Chavez and his influential cheerleaders were energised by, indeed were parasitical upon, the glaring inability of Washington to pursue or even outline its interests on the twenty-first-century world stage.

In most ways, Chavez was not that different to other populist leftist leaders that have been shaking up Latin American politics for decades. Like them – whether it was Lazaro Cardenas in 1930s Mexico, Juan Peron in 1940s Argentina, or Salvador Allende in 1970s Chile – his agenda consisted of a mish-mash of anti-Western posturing, nationalisation strategies, social-welfare programmes, and the deployment of a demagogic style that tapped into and exploited the prejudices of certain sections of the public. Chavez was less impressive a leader than someone like Peron, and less radical than Allende, who froze prices and raised wages and whose nationalisation drive stretched from copper and coal companies to the steel industry and a majority of Chilean banks. But in style, and for the most part in content, he was cut from the same cloth as those earlier strongmen.

But there’s one important way in which Chavez was different – his longevity; his success; his political stardom, not only in Venezuela but also among the cultural elites of Europe and even in America. Despite the fact that, in contrast to Cardenas, Peron and Allende, he emerged at a time when there was no Soviet Union and when old socialist ideals were largely discredited, counterintuitively Chavez enjoyed greater staying power and global respect than those earlier Latin American leaders. What this reveals is a striking story of American decline rather than of state-socialist revival; it exposes the inability of modern Washington to keep its opponents in check in a way it would have done with relative ease and very often swagger in the twentieth century.

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