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Liberal magazine: Maybe Hugo Chavez “wasn’t authoritarian enough”

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

After Hugo Chavez died the writers at the venerable liberal weekly the Nation went into mourning over the death of the radical leftist Venezuelan strongman. They’ve kept at it too. Here’s a cover story on Chavez by Greg Grandin. You can read it here (subscription required though).  It is a lengthy rationalization of Chavez’s rule, brushing aside all of the criticisms to argue that, hey, Chavez was a good guy after all. It reaches its nadir here:

Chavez was a strongman: he packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any system of institutional checks and balances. But I’ll be perverse and argue that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chavez was authoritarian, but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.

After a few paragraphs arguing why Chavez wasn’t, you know,  that much of authoritarian, Grandin then admits that maybe his earlier idea wasn’t such a great one — but his thinking on why is, ahem, interesting:

On second thought, then, perhaps more authoritarianism wouldn’t have been a good thing. True, it might have created a stronger, more efficient state that could have kept crime and corruption in check. But it also would have co-opted the grassroots into the state, creating something that probably would have looked like the PRI after the Mexican Revolution.

The PRI was the political party that dominated Mexico for generations, becoming bloated and corrupt in the process. So Grandin is arguing that while Chavez taking complete control in Venezuela “might have created a stronger, more efficient state,” it might not have worked that well in the long run.

For an alternate, more realistic take on Chavez’s legacy, check out these articles by Slate, the Daily Beast, and the Economist, as well as the Human Rights Watch 2012 report on Venezuela.

 

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