NY Times Credits 'Populist' Despot Hugo Chavez for 'Empowering...Millions of Poor People'

Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez is dead of cancer at age 58, the end of a bizarre odyssey that took him to Communist Cuba in a failed attempt at a cure. William Neuman's off-lead story in Wednesday's New York Times credited the left-wing dictator for having "changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded."

The headline called the leftist despot a populist: "Chavez Dies At 58 With Venezuela In Deep Turmoil – Debilitated By Cancer – Crowds Mass in Capital Mourning Populist Who Defied U.S." Thus the paper maintains its double standard on labeling dead dictators, with the paper rarely using the term "dictator" to refer to communists, only fascists.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died Tuesday afternoon after a struggle with cancer, the government announced, leaving behind a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis that grew more acute as he languished for weeks, silent and out of sight, in hospitals in Havana and Caracas.

Close to tears and his voice cracking, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said he and other officials had gone to the military hospital where Mr. Chávez was being treated, sequestered from the public, when “we received the hardest and most tragic information that we could transmit to our people.”

In short order, police officers and soldiers were highly visible as people ran through the streets, calling loved ones on cellphones, rushing to get home. Caracas, the capital, which had just received news that the government was throwing out two American military attachés it accused of sowing disorder, quickly became an enormous traffic jam. Stores and shopping malls abruptly closed.


Mr. Chávez’s departure from a country he dominated for 14 years casts into doubt the future of his socialist revolution. It alters the political balance not only in Venezuela, the fourth-largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States, but also in Latin America, where Mr. Chávez led a group of nations intent on reducing American influence in the region.

Mr. Chávez, 58, changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded. But his rule also widened society’s divisions, and his death is sure to bring vast uncertainty as the nation tries to find its way without its central figure.

The official Times obituary by Simon Romero called him "a dreamer with a common touch and enormous ambition" but also took note of Chavez's authoritarianism, his "bizarre governing apparatus," and how the "increasingly poisonous" political debate "took its toll on the country," as "Private investors, unhinged over Mr. Chávez’s nationalizations and expropriation threats, halted projects....Simple tasks, like transferring the title of a car, remained nightmarish odysseys eased only by paying bribes to churlish bureaucrats."

The paper's most left-wing movie critic Stephen Holden previously showed his admiration for Chavez in his review of fellow fawner Oliver Stone's 2010 documentary of Chavez, "South of the Border," "Mr. Chávez comes across as a rough-hewn but good-hearted man of the people whose bullheaded determination is softened by a sense of humor."