Now these same people are counting on the quasi-religious use of Chavez's persona to overwhelm the opposition. They very well may be underestimating the popular discontent in a revolution that has lost its hero, and with it, its magic.
I admire a great deal of what Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution accomplished in Venezuela. It's precisely because of these positive accomplishments that Chávez's record on the Middle East and North Africa is so disconcerting.
How can Venezuela stave off a currency crisis and place its economy back on a solid monetary foundation? The solution is simple: replace the bolivar with the U.S. dollar.
And when countries are under attack, the space for civil liberties diminishes. Sometimes that's for legitimate reasons, and sometimes it's not and is opportunistic on the part of would-be authoritarians. But it's essentially a law of nature; it always happens.
I asked him if it was true that he had ordered a delay in the evacuation of the Vargas region hit by the mudslide because it might interfere with the election he was in the process of winning. He didn't like that question. Then I asked him about improving relations with the U.S. That ended the interview.
Bertrand Russell once wrote about the American revolutionary Thomas Paine, "He had faults, like other men; but it was for his virtues that he was hated and successfully calumniated." This was certainly true of Hugo Chávez Frias.
With promises to boost spending for the poor, Correa's popularity soared in the lead up to the Ecuador election, as he capitalized on the surge in world oil prices and the commodity boom in Latin America to initiate a spree of social spending. Sound familiar?
As long as the oil was flowing, it appeared Chavez would be able to hold onto power. But as he grew ill, it appeared that so did his country.
I found Hugo Chavez conflicting. In a strange way, he was extraordinarily easy to like, but of course many people -- both good and bad -- who rise to prominence can be that way. Chavez was larger than life. He was very engaging.
Take, for example, the Fed's willingness to purchase toxic real estate assets -- using your money to acquire securities which are now shunned by the market. Or take the Bank of England's efforts to shove easy money at banks making corporate loans. What happened to good old-fashioned faith in markets?
Hugo Chavez defied this history of power relations in the hemisphere. And for that defiance elite voices will vilify him, but a far larger number of people will see him as a hero.
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.
With Hugo Chavez having now passed, the question of who will inherit his legacy as the vanguard of 21st century socialism in Latin America is foremost in the minds of many.
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.
Like most people, to me the name Hugo Chavez means only one thing: Citgo gasoline. I'm not sophisticated enough to know if he was such a bad guy as le...