The West won't shed a tear for Chavez
The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has become a number one topic in the Western press. Journalists discuss the Comandante's personality and the legacy he left behind. They also wonder how his death will affect other countries in Latin America, and who will replace him.
The American newspaper The Los Angeles Times wrote not so much about the death of Chavez, but more of the behavior of his successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who suggested that the Comandante was infected by the enemies of Venezuela. Journalists reported that the U.S. military attache was accused of destabilization attempts and sent out of the country. Mildly put, the paper expressed no sympathy for the late president. Given that Chavez was fiercely anti-American, this is not surprising.
The paper wrote that Maduro understood that he was not as charismatic as Chavez, and therefore tried to insinuate that the legacy of the President and the socialist revolution was threatened. The tactics of the Vice President are very harmful. Venezuela has already split into supporters of the late President and his critics who say Chavez was nothing more than another Latin American caudillo.
British The Financial Times spoke about the consequences of the Chavez's death for Cuba that is highly dependent on the supply of Venezuelan oil and Venezuelan aid in general. The newspaper mentioned that while "Furious Hugo" was sick, Cuban officials were anxiously whispering that the death of Chavez for the Cuban regime was significantly more important than the death of Fidel.
The newspaper analyzed the consequences of Chavez's death for other countries as well. It reported that now ardent anti-Americans represented by the leaders of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador will lose their main defender. Russia, Iran and China will also suffer losses. Russia will lose one of the largest buyers of weapons, Iran - an important partner in the anti-American diplomatic gambits, and China - nearly unlimited access to Venezuelan oil, the newspaper wrote.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo was more interested in the personality of the late President. Its journalists wrote that Chavez was a person who was granted a chance to save his homeland, and an illusionist, who may go down in history as just another despot. They believe that the comparison of Chavez with Fidel Castro and longtime leader of Libya is incorrect. He has more in common with the Argentinian dictator Juan Domingo Peron.
Spanish journalists were able to explain the high level of popularity of the "Furious Hugo" among his people. They think that a significant role was played by substantial spending on social initiatives and abundance of programs for the poor. By the time of his arrival to power, Venezuela's GDP was on decline, and 75 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. However, there were some deficiencies in his leadership as well. Finally, the newspaper found it difficult to clearly answer the question of whether Chavez was a democrat or a dictator, as he was both.
Swiss French-language newspaper Le Temps commented on the unique personality of the Comandante. It wrote that from the beginning of his presidency, his actions were perceived ambiguously. At first, his concept of "socialism of the 21st century" was very vague, but Chavez's negative remarks about "bourgeois" made the middle class and the rich alert. The lower strata of the population initially did not widely support the President.
Over time, Chavez decided to accelerate the reforms. He limited the private sector and created the so-called "missions" - social programs funded by petrodollars. Gradually he gained steady popularity among his people, and each of his new plans only increased the level of support. The Swiss paper noted that overseas Chavez has gradually turned into a recognized leader of the "crusade against imperialism."
The article stated that the flow of petrodollars allowed him to support Cuba and lead a new wave of leftist leaders of Latin American countries from Bolivia to Nicaragua. His rhetoric against the Yankees pushed him towards new, sometimes conflicting alliances, for example, with China that became the main debtor of the country, and also with Iran and Belarus. However, as his illness progressed, his rhetoric became less belligerent and his talks about socialism were replaced with appeals to God.
Austrian newspaper Die Presse made an attempt to analyze what course would be taken by the interim president of the country, a former bus driver and union activist Nicolas Maduro. They wrote that he could continue to build socialism, for such was the last wish of Chavez. Before flying to Cuba in December of 2012, Chavez said that he wanted to see Maduro as his successor.
Austrian journalists drew attention to the fact that this will of the late Head of State was at odds with the Constitution of Venezuela. In case of death of the President his duties shall be assumed by the chairman of the parliament. However, the choice fell on the Vice President who has broad support among the senior military. Perhaps, this factor played a significant role in Chavez's choice.
Czech newspaper Mlada fronta DNES reported on other countries' response to the death of Chavez. Latin America mourns the death of Chavez the most. Cuba, Chavez's political model and the place of his treatment, declared three days of mourning. Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner also announced three days of mourning, and leader Evo Morales decided to fly to Venezuela soon, noted the paper. President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff said she did not always agree with Chavez, but always considered him a "friend of Brazil."
According to the newspaper, the words of condolences were expressed by the leaders of France, Great Britain and Russia, but the United States decided not to drop tears over the death of the creator of "socialism of the 21st century" and took the opportunity to remind about its interests in Venezuela. The paper also drew attention to the fact that Venezuelan immigrants in the U.S. were happy to learn of Chavez's demise. They believe that the time for change has arrived.
Chavez always had strained relations with the West. It is not surprising that the American and European media do not have much sympathy for the president of Venezuela. However, the enormous scale of his personality is recognized by all. When these words come from the mouths of those opposing him, it only emphasized that the world has lost one of its most prominent politicians.