5) And finally, instead of the predictable nonsense from Joe Kennedy, Oliver Stone, and Sean Penn, let us turn to one of Venezuela’s many authoritarian allies. PressTV, the reliably insane news service of the Iranian regime, speculated that Chávez was offed by the CIA’s give-cancer-to-Latin-American-leftists unit. The report, from former academic (and current Holocaust denier!) Kevin Barrett, isn’t without a qualification, though: “Am I 100% certain that the CIA killed Hugo Chávez? Absolutely not. It could have been non-governmental assassins working for the bankers.”
It’s worth noting that there have been a number of very smart analyses of Chávez’s legacy—start with Slate’s William Dobson, The Guardian’s Rory Carroll, Venezuelan journalist Francisco Toro, and The Economist. But the number of stupid columns, with the usual farrago of dubious numbers and boring bouts of semantic quibbling (dictator or democrat?) was indeed surprising, with their platitudes about Chávez not being perfect, but caring deeply about the poor (or my favorite, from an NBC News blogger, on his success in “strengthening cultural pride”).
And this is Hugo Chávez’s lesson for future authoritarians: make a mockery of democratic institutions, rewrite the constitution, and persecute—and prosecute—your political enemies. But when you do so, make sure to mutter the appropriate things about poverty, “the empire,” and the scourge of “neo-liberalism.” All will be forgiven.