I’ve blogged before about what I call the Hugo Chavez Polarity Inversion Level (the Hug-PIL!)- that is, the strange, differentiated effect Chavez has on almost everyone’s thinking. To the right of a line that falls somewhere amongst left liberals and in a portion of the political sphere that includes most liberals (in the American sense of the term) and definitely all conservatives, Chavez is a Really Bad Dude, a despot in disguise who is ransacking his country’s economy and who can not possibly be doing anything good. Nothing. To the left of the line, amongst lefter left-liberals, socialists and the like, Chavez is a Very Good Guy, the future of anti-capitalism, a model for us all, and a man who can do no wrong.
This frustrates me – by inclination I suspect that not all of what he does is great, and not all of what he does is bad. And it would be very helpful to separate the good from the bad, and the successful from the unsuccessful. And then, who knows, maybe we might learn a bit. It wouldn’t be as exciting as re-staging the cold war, but it would be useful from a development perspective.
And so: if you know of any impartial and intelligent writing on Chavez which attempts to do this please do let me know.
Also, if you’re a Chavez fan, have a crack at explaining the following:
Venezuela’s homicide rates are among the highest in the hemisphere — twice those of Colombia and three times those of Mexico — despite largely escaping the world’s attention. Rates were rising even before Hugo Chávez assumed power. But under his 12 years they have skyrocketed, from 4,550 in 1998 to 17,600 last year. The victims are predominantly poor young men — killed for as little as a mobile phone, caught in gunfire between gangs, or even subject to extrajudicial killings by security forces. (from here)
How can this be commensurate with the rise of socialist utopia? And how can criminal violence be rising amidst social progress and falling inequality?
If there is a good explanation I am genuinely interested in hearing it.