President Hugo Chavez's death, while not unexpected, brings an uncertain future to a country that he ruled with an iron fist. It also may present a great opportunity for American diplomacy in Venezuela and Latin America.
Hugo Chavez is dead -- but he is no hero. Even as his supporters pour into the streets to mourn their fallen idol, the damage he caused to Venezuela is incalculable.
As Chavez is now laid to rest, the one thing I am certain of is that the mainstream American media will once again fail to accurately and fairly capture the positives and negatives of this complicated leader.
There are a number of distortions and problems with Venezuela's economy -- including recurrent shortages -- and some of them have to do with the management of the exchange rate system. But none of these problems present a systemic threat to the economy.
Venezuelans have spent that decade struggling under the yoke of high unemployment, rampant inflation and crippling shortages of everything from rice to flour to coffee. It has left Chávez in the awkward position of blaming Venezuela's hobbled private sector for the failure of his own socialist policies.
You simply can't logically and empirically connect "socialism" to our country's economic/social/political system's reality, a reality that we can see and measure.
Last week the New York Times did something it has never done before -- in its "Room for Debate" section it offered differing views on Venezuela.
He may not speak the seductive language of 21st century socialism, but Mexico's newly elected president Enrique Peña Nieto is well poised to fill the void of regional leadership arising from the impending departure of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.
Since assuming the highest office in the nation in 2008, questions have surrounded Raul Castro's few trips abroad. This time the controversy ranged from cheering people to critics demanding the General be put on trial.
Hugo Chavez retaining power in Venezuela could be just what the doctor ordered for the recovery of the American housing market. Despite his absence due to health issues, his presence still looms large.
The Venezuelan example of bringing resources under public control and using the revenue for the betterment of all offers a model that cannot be replicated everywhere. But it is seen as a dangerous model because one of the places it can be replicated is in the United States.
Venezuelans living around the world will be watching closely what happens in Caracas at midnight, my sources tell me. The country's constitution calls for the President to take the oath of office in a public ceremony by Jan. 10. If unable to do so, the nation's duly elected president is supposed to take the oath in front of the country's Congress. President Elect Hugo Chavez has done neither and, according to government sources, is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba. The country's Supreme Court has ruled that as Chavez is simply continuing to serve as the nation's president after winning another six-year term late last year, he can simply be sworn in later. And a symbolic swearing in ceremony has been held. Chavez's political opponents and those concerned about the possibility of a constitutional crisis have suggested that a team of Venezuelan doctors should be sent to Cuba confirm that Chavez is still breathing and assess his health. Such a group can not visit Cuba without the Cuban government's expressed permission. Ernesto Ackerman, president of the Miami-based nonprofit Independent Venezuelan American Citizens, told me that Cuba has managed a bloodless coup today effectively turning Venezuela into a "colony firmly under communist control."
Now, the same media officials who have used intrusion into medical records as an ideological tool, defend the secrecy over Hugo Chavez's state of health.
A federal judge dealt a blow to what officials insist is one of New York City's most effective but also widely criticized crime-fighting tools. Stop and Frisk can't continue as is in the Bronx. As Barack Obama prepares for a second term the nation's first black President may be building a team of nearly all white and male cabinet officials and top-level staff leading some to make alarming comparisons between Obama and George W. Bush. A South Carolina Mexican Restaurant forces it's employees to advertise it's troubling brand of immigration enforcement -- on their uniforms. Let's just say there's an image of a taco and an allusion to a rat trap involved.