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Inside Story

How will the world remember Hugo Chavez?

We examine the global implications of the death of Venezuela's charismatic but controversial leader.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2013 16:05

"We are all Chavez" - those were the chants from his supporters following the death of Venezuela's president.
 
Losing his two-year battle with cancer, Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday at the age of 58 and Venezuela has declared seven days of mourning. 

"He is leaving behind industries that have been ruined by his economic policies. Many people will miss him, but why will they miss him? It's because he is a man who nationalised industries and created jobs in that way, which is not real job creation, and actually redistributed wealth in order to gain re-election - effectively bribing people to vote for him .... He actually had mad intentions. The man believed that the moon landing was fake, he didn't believe that bin Laden was a real person, he was a conspiracy theorist of the hightest order and a man who befriended tyrants around the world. Nobody should be happy that the man is dead, but should certainly be excited for the prospect of Venezuelans now having the opportunity to get some real freedom for their country."

- Raheem Kassam, the executive editor of The Commentator

Always a contoversial figure, Chavez rose from the ranks of the military to become the leader of one of Latin America's largest economies. And he divided opinion throughout his presidency.

But loved or loathed, Chavez always made an impression.

One of the most colourful figures on the world stage, he styled himself as a leader of global anti-imperialism which was reflected in his international allies.

His relations with the US ranged from strained to outright hostile and they were at their lowest during George W Bush's presidency - who Chavez famously portrayed as the devil.
 
His strongest regional ally was Bolivia's Evo Morales, who joined Chavez's fight against neoliberalism and imperialism.

And his anti-American policy found a natural fit with Iran - their strong ties were dubbed the 'Axis of Unity'.
 
Chavez was a vocal critic of Israel and severed diplomatic ties following the 2008-2009 Gaza offensive.

And despite being well-liked by Arab nations, he squandered popular goodwill by backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, describing the latter as a martyr following his death.

Reaction to his death was as divisive as Chavez himself, with some describing it as a tragedy and others seeing an opportunity for Venezuela to come out of Chavez's shadow.

Iran's President called for a day of mourning describing him as a martyr. He added: "Venezuela lost its brave, strong son and the world lost a wise and revolutionary leader."

"I think there's going to be a lot of people going to romanticise  his legacy because he was very pro-poor. He tried to speak directly to the poor, he didn't try to speak above them. He seemed like a man of the people, he stood up to the West, and he was not really kleptocratic or overly repressive like some other dictatorships. But at the end of the day he was not very democratic and he wasn't committed to good governance at all."

- Natasha Ezrow, a lecturer of government at the University of Essex

Obama said Venezuela was marking a "new chapter in its history" affirming his support for the Venezuelan people.
 
A tearful Bolivian President Evo Morales said he was an inspiration adding that "he is now more alive than ever."
 
William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said he was "saddened" by Chavez's death saying he had left a lasting impression on the country."

So, how will the world remember Hugo Chavez? And what kind of leader was he?

To discuss the implications of the death of Hugo Chavez on the world stage, Inside Story is joined by guests: Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the British Parliament, from the opposition Labour Party; Natasha Ezrow, a lecturer of government at the University of Essex, and the author of the book Dictators and Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian Regimes and Their Leaders; and Raheem Kassam, the executive editor of The Commentator, and director of communications for the Henry Jackson Society.

"He will be remembered as a great figure of Latin America, one that spoke up for the indigenous people and the poor and changed the whole narrative of the politics of the continent towards redistribution of wealth and spending oil resources on people rather than returning it to distant multi-national companies. I think he will be remembered very warmly by a lot of very marginalised and very poor people across the continent .... [British politicians] They all recognise what an incredible figure he was politically .... His legacy is one that has asserted Latin American cultural values and asserted Latin America in a way that very few leaders in the whole continent ever have. I think he'll be remembered ... as somebody who stood up against very difficult odds."

Jeremy Corbyn, a member of the British Parliament

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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