And this may be the most important point: Socialism, capitalism and other systems matter not only for the conditions they create but because of the ideas they propagate. This is true even if these ideologies are followed incompletely or imperfectly.
One simple way to trace that influence for Chavez is to look at Wikiquotes, where you will find plenty of utterances against globalization and the market economy. “Privatization is a neoliberal and imperialist plan,” he said in 2005. “Health can’t be privatized because it is a fundamental human right, nor can education, water, electricity and other public services. They can’t be surrendered to private capital that denies the people from their rights.” That rhetoric of victimization and absolute moralizing against markets doesn’t sound so different from a lot of what I hear from non-Venezuelans on social media.
Like his praise for anti-capitalist, anti-American regimes such as Belarus and Iran, a lot of Chavez’s rhetoric might have been written off as political posturing. But it has continued under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, who has also failed to use his post to educate Venezuelans about the benefits of capitalism and globalization — in stark contrast to many East Asian leaders. Instead, the promotion of socialist ideas has helped to make Venezuelan society less economically robust and more vulnerable to collapse.