It’s a great strategy. Burn down the house to roast marshmallows, but rig it so that whoever takes over the ruins gets blamed for the leaking roof. The narrative in the making is that Chavez brought the good times, the compassion, the caring, and when he died — as Evita did — then the bad old capitalists came back and stopped the music, raised retirement ages, implemented austerity, etc. Nobody will notice that Chavez ran everything into the ground and died taking orders from Castro. Toro writes:
What we’re seeing, in other words, are the building blocks of a heroic narrative arc for Chávez’s memory falling into place. It reads like a chapter of the book Open Veins of Latin America, the heroic leftist leader who held back the rapacious capitalists up until his last breath, only to be betrayed by his closest ally.
Maybe there’s a movie in the works featuring Sean Penn. Senor Hugo’s Los Miserables. I Dreamed a Dream of Days Gone Bad. But it’s not just Venezuela that will miss the credit card binges of the Commandante Presidente; the regional deadbeats will be hurting too. The Cato institute notes:
Regionally speaking, Chávez’s death will have an important effect on Venezuela’s satellite countries. Cuba is certainly the most vulnerable.
The Cuban economy would probably implode without the massive oil subsidy it receives from Venezuela. This would jeopardize the continuity of the Castro regime. This is why Havana is playing such an active role in deciding who will replace Chávez and how the succession should play out. Other regional allies such as Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia would also face cutbacks in economic assistance but not big enough to threaten their leaders’ hold on power.
What does the Obama administration do in all this? It has found itself before a succession of opportunities in recent years. The fall of Assad in Syria was potentially a chance to get at Iran; now the natural demise of Chavez threatens to knock out the pins from under Cuba. The Christian Science Monitor writes:
Experts suggest that a change in leadership in Venezuela could have huge consequences for Cuba. … Business with Venezuela consists of 40 percent of all Cuban trade, and Cuba receives 60 percent of its energy needs on preferential terms from Venezuela.
Havana has “30,000-50,000 Cuban technical personnel working in Venezuela as physicians, teachers, and other instructors” who will be unemployed if they have to return to the Worker’s Paradise. But if the Syrian case is any guide, the Obama administration will manage to turn gold into pyrite; to get the worst of all worlds plus its embassy burned to boot, metaphorically speaking. In the Middle East they’ve watched the growing destabilization of a region without the recompense of a decisive gain against the American foe.
What happens in Latin America after Chavez dies remains to be seen. But unless the administration’s luck or skill changes, the Venezuelan president’s death may simply result in an unrest more easily directed from Havana than Foggy Bottom. Certainly if Venezuela goes bust, it won’t be Fidel who will be asked to foot the rescue bill.
It will be — guess who.
Leftist politics in its essentials is identical, whether practiced on an international or domestic scale. Transfer money and take credit. Domestically, it depends on income transfers between citizens of varying incomes. Internationally, it does as well. To do this it manufactures a drama with a hero and a villain; the Left always stars as the Hero. Why does it work?
Perhaps the only reason world socialism has survived as long as it has is through subsidies from the American taxpayer.
Hugo Chavez’s career is a cautionary tale. You can’t live on the Socialist Credit Card unless you can trick someone into paying the bill. Of course, that’s not hard if you graduate an entire generation of people trained to buy the world a Coke. But when they have to buy themselves a Coke and can’t, then what? The ultimate reason why socialism can never in the long term work in America is that when the U.S. goes bust, there’s no one left to pick up the tab.