The career of Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez didn’t begin there, but reached regrettable notoriety when in 1992 he attempted a coup d’état in his native Venezuela. The attempt failed, and the soldier served a short prison term for it. That would not be the lowest point in his political career, nor would it be his greatest fiasco.
In 1998, he entered the democratic game —because democracy carries within itself its own demise—, and he arrived to power (which he would assume in 1999) through the electoral process. Since then, he allied himself with Fidel Castro (although previously he had called the Cuban leader a dictator). He would have time in the future to ally himself with Ahmadinejad and other gems from that pile of mud.
The marriage of convenience with the Cuban dictator was a round pact (similar to the relationship of mutualism between the shark and the remora): Castro offered him ideological legitimacy while Chávez gave him in return oil in enormous quantities. But that exchange of gold and shiny mirrors didn’t turn Chávez into a dictator. That made him a wasteful and irresponsible president who was squandering the resources of his people. What made him a dictator was that once in power he started limiting the civil and political freedoms of Venezuelans. Like any self-respecting dictator, he dehumanized his enemies. He turned them into non-persons, following in the footsteps of his bearded Cuban mentor who had coined the term worm to tag those who didn’t profess his creed.
Chávez was a great apprentice in the accelerated course for tyrants: he knew how to lie from the start. And he presented himself as the candidate of the Homeland with capital H, that schoolyard aberration. Knowing that when it comes to political maturity some sectors of Latin America haven’t left the most innocent infancy, his populist and messianic style flowered in the waste land. And there were those who thought that if they voted against him, they were voting against the homeland. They were voting against the Salvation of the Homeland. They were voting against the Savior.
If the Caesars named the two longest months and Castro changed (twice!) the geopolitical distribution on the island, Chávez didn’t want to be less than that: he gave a new official name to Venezuela and in a moment of boredom changed the time zone and the design of the national flag.
Since dictators are for life, he created a loophole to be able to run indefinitely for president. In the first referendum, the people of Venezuela said no. Eighteen months later, he asked them to vote on it again. After having fined and closed TV and radio channels that sympathized with the opposition, controlling the majority of the media and reclining on the indoctrination that Cuban doctors and personnel were applying on the neediest areas in the country, in the second time around, the answer from the Venezuelans was yes, giving him the opportunity to be president for life. He didn’t call himself the living Apollo because that title had already been claimed by Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known as Caligula.
He exported black gold to Cuba and imported something else from the island: misery. “What do you mean Castro has starved the Cuban people for more than half a century?” he asked, and with a snap of his fingers, he made the popular flour P.A.N. disappear from the food markets.
His most recent insult to the Constitution he swore to respect was when he missed his inauguration as president on January 10th, 2013. His inability to attend this ceremony should have led to his resignation, but he continued ruling through Twitter and clinging to power with the same determination with which he clung to life. In his final days, his closest subordinates held four- and five-hour meetings with him, the same way children play with unicorns and other mythological creatures.
He died who knows when, who knows where, who knows under what circumstances. The Venezuelan government announced his death the same day that the Washington Post published the testimony of Spanish politician Ángel Carromero in which he revealed that Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá did not die as a result of an accident, contradicting what the Castro regime has claimed so far.
In the long populist résumé of Hugo Chávez, there’s a pearl that shines brightly: he was the anchor of the radio show “Aló, Presidente,” in which he sang more than one song and shared more than one idiocy. His Twitter account hasn’t been notified of his death.