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Hugo Chavez

March 5, 2013

1954-2013

South America is almost the last bastion of semi-respectable communism, and for 14 years Hugo Chavez, the populist president of Venezuela, was its most prominent proponent. A paratrooper, imprisoned after a failed coup in 1992, he went on TV to persuade other rebels to lay down arms, saying he had failed “por ahora”, for now. He was lucky to be still in jail when a second bloodier coup was supressed later that year, and he survived to see President Carlos Perez, who had been embroiled in financial and sexual shenanigans with his secretary, finally forced out peacefully.

After his release Chavez won a reasonably fair election in 1998 and went on winning by rewriting the constitution and buying votes. His policies were hopeless. Arbitrary orders to build schools, reform prisons, or expropriate land and factories, were announced on his TV chat show, Alo Presidente, and enforced by a motley collection of self-styled Chavistas. But the poor loved him, he didn’t steal everything – a few favoured industrialists kept the country running, and took the blame when his policies failed – and the oil kept flowing.

He had a wife, Nancy, the mother of his first three children, and a fiery Marxist mistress, Herma.  But when he divorced Nancy, he married a glamorous journalist Marisabel Rodriguez instead, having got her pregnant on their first date – they both boasted about it. Eventually, having fallen out with wives and mistress, his daughter took over as First Lady, leaving him single again and eligible. They say women don’t mind fat guys, so long as they’re powerful, so there were many rumours. But he had learned discretion, so they remained so.

Fidel Castro was his best friend. Chavez sent him cheap oil, allegedly $3 billion’s worth a year, and Castro sent back doctors, the only thing Cuba produces any more. But when Chavez himself got cancer, even Havana’s best couldn’t save him.

When the old politicians got mired in sin
Big Hugo Chavez para-trooped in.
They popped him in jail first time round
So he stood for election and won hands down

Land for brothers, schools for sistas,
Hospitals for the Chavistas.
Pre-empt dissente.
Announce it on Alo Presidente.

He traded oil for doctors,
Who couldn’t cure his cancers,
So now he’s in Nirvana
Via ITU Havana.

Jim Thornton

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