Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013): The king is dead, long live the revolution?
The death earlier this year of Hugo Chavez at the age of 58 prompts immediate questions regarding his legacy and his successors. Chavez will be remembered fondly by many on the left for his dedicated opposition to imperialism, his championing of welfare reforms to successfully reduce poverty and improve public services in Venezuela particularly in health, education and housing as well as for his support for community organizations, cooperatives, land occupations and experiments in self-management in industry. Venezuela now has the lowest level of inequality in Latin America. In 2011 the inequality rating scale, the Gini coefficient, was 0.39 in Venezuela compared to 0.52 in Brazil. There will, however, also be deserved criticism for his deeply erroneous support for authoritarian leaders like Gaddafi, Assad and Ahmadinejad, for his failure to build a party of the left or to directly take on Venezuelan big business who still control the majority of non-oil industry including banks, telecommunications and media.