Chavez, a political icon?

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's President from 1998 to 2013, died the 5th of March, 2013

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s President from 1998 to 2013, died the 5th of March, 2013

I am back on my blog after some day-offs and a week dominated by the death of Hugo Chavez, president of the Venezuela’s Bolivarian Republic.

The reactions were very important sometimes impassioned, sometimes excessive at the lider maximo death, throughout the world and in France mainly where Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Front de Gauche leader and great admirer of Chavez, paid tribute to him while Laurence Parisot, the MEDEF (The France’s big businesses trade-union) Chairwoman strongly criticized the ex-Venezuelan President’s economic policy. And recently, the Victorin Lurel’s statement, French Overseas region Minister and (only) French member of government attending to the Chavez’s funerals who compared him to General de Gaulle and Leon Blum, provoked the controversy and the anger of the opposition.

Personally, I always had more difficulties to make a clear opinion about Chavez, what maybe explains why I took so much time to write this article and give my point of view. For some people, Chavez will be the man who modernized his country, considerably and incontestably reduced poverty, was rebel vis-à-vis the United States federating around him the other South Americans leaders and stayed faithful to his political convictions and aspirations, making him a genuine icon for his people, the most unprivileged especially.


But according to other people, the Venezuelan leader is the man who had a very personal opinion about democracy, mistreated the opposition constantly, and had diplomatic relations with very controversial leaders as Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s President, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus’ president or Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian ruler, all these three having in common a deep hate for United States.

Chavez: new Bolivar or pseudo-populist? The historians will have to make their own opinion and it is highly sure they will not be unanimous about him. Admittedly, the man really modernized his country leading an ambitious social policy, initiating a progressive turning-point in all Latin America and encouraging the region to be more independent from the United States. Nonetheless, although he was legitimistic, the Chavez’s legitimacy was finally fragile insofar as it was based on the trust given by his people and opposed to a hazardous diplomatic game vis-à-vis the US. Because rebelling is a thing but sometimes at the price of a mainly economic dependency, Venezuela importing a large part of its needs.

7759149182_les-obseques-d-hugo-chavez-auront-lieu-le-8-mars-2013Hugo Chavez will have given some dignity to a part of his people, which probably explains, the painful reactions and deep sadness of most Venezuelans at his death, just a week ago. The man is becoming an icon as Mustafa Kemal in Turkey. Seventy-years after he left this world, the leader remains a genuine reference he is almost impossible to question. Maybe Chavez will enjoy this honour, which his body will be embalmed and exposed permanently. But the real challenge for Venezuela will be overcoming the former president’s death but also start a clear and genuine democratic transition as what is happening in the rest of South America with concrete results in Chile as Brazil.