Lo que él dejó

Hugo Chávez died yesterday afternoon at 4:25pm local time after a two-year battle with a still undisclosed cancer. I find myself desiring to write even though I have no real connection to what happened. I am not Venezuelan, and while I have a number of friends who are, nothing that he did ever affected my life in any direct way. I find that Chávez’s death makes me feel far more melancholy than I ever would have imagined. I guess this is because I am a humanist, and I can’t rejoice in another’s death, even someone who I believe has caused millions of people to live worse off (or, considering Venezuela’s astronomical homicide rates, not at all). More than that though, I think it is because I don’t really believe this will make Venezuela better off in the near term and maybe not for years to come. Chávez dying does not change the fact that, unless the opposition is able to overcome the odds and win the presidency in the upcoming election, Venezuela’s democratic future looks bleak as the less charismatic Maduro/Cabello duo will almost certainly have to substitute repression where Chávez got by with charisma. It also doesn’t change the fact that Venezuela’s economy is moribund and may be a few dollar drop in oil prices away from a major crisis; a crisis which depending who is in power could delegitimize the opposition for years or unleash a wave of repression or worse. The simple truth is that Hugo Chávez left his country to bear the consequences of his rule for years to come. He leaves an economy on the brink, violent crime as bad as any country in the hemisphere and a system of governance that is incapable of functioning independently and likely lacks the capacity to cope with the problems that await. Certainly, all of this would still be true if he were on his way to a full recovery, but by dying, the one person most responsible for the current state of affairs is one who will never have to live through the aftermath.

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