Hugo Chavez, having lied to his people about his state of health prior to his recent re-election, is now ravaged by the terminal stages of cancer. He will die within weeks, perhaps before his scheduled inauguration. Except for communist regimes propped up by subsidized Venezuelan oil supplies – most notably Cuba – the death of Chavez will be received with widespread rejoicing. Most especially among the unwashed masses of Venezuela, relief rather than mourning should be (though sadly it may not be) the predominant response. The better-educated and the better-off, no doubt by now, have fled the country, taking what they can of their accumulated wealth.
Hugo Chavez has deliberately and systematically destroyed the economy of his once prosperous country. Whoever succeeds the socialist caudillo who has ruled them over the past 13 years, will confront an economic catastrophe, much like the chaos that confronted General Augusto Pinochet in Chile when the Marxist president, Salvador Allende, committed suicide in the middle of a successful coup-d’etat.
To win re-election in 2012, Chavez spent wildly, way beyond any revenues that he could raise. The budget deficit runs at an unsustainable 20 per cent of gross domestic product. Devaluation, high inflation and shortages of staple foods will be inevitable consequences, whoever succeeds him. Like Juan Peron in Argentina, the disintegration of the Venezuelan economy into third world status will take generations to repair.
Whether Venezuala will ever return from autocratic populism to democracy is highly questionable. Surely Argentina has yet to do so forty years after the death of Juan Peron. For the Venezuelan people, the true catastrophe is that an ignorant majority stupidly voted him into office, and that his terminal cancer took 13 years to evolve.