Chavez died on Tuesday of cancer, at the age of 58.
President Barack Obama is right to see this as a “new chapter” in the history of that country, and in relations with the U.S.
“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” Obama said in a statement. “As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”
But do you know what promotes those policies far more effectively than sanctions or political isolation? Good old capitalism.
Political satirist P.J. O’Rourke once noted that commerce played a big role in winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
“In the end we beat them with Levi 501 jeans,” he wrote in “Give War A Chance.” “Seventy-two years of Communist indoctrination and propaganda was drowned out by a three-ounce Sony Walkman. A huge totalitarian system has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes. Now they’re lunch, and we’re No. 1 on the planet.”
It could work again, in Venezuela, if we give it a chance.
“Chavez presided over a political epoch flush with money and lorded over a society riven by fear, deep political divisions, and ultraviolence,” writes Michael Moynihan for the Daily Beast. “Consider the latest crime statistics from Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia, which reckons that 2012 saw an astonishing 21,692 murders in the country — in a population of 29 million. Last year, I accompanied a Venezuelan journalist on his morning rounds at Caracas’s only morgue to count the previous night’s murders. As the number of dead ballooned, the Chavez regime simply stopped releasing murder statistics to the media.”
Despite the petrodollars (and sitting atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves), Venezuelan people continue to suffer crippling poverty and economy-killing lack of public services.
Explains Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie, “It’s easy to mock Chavez because of his outspoken anti-American attitudes but you know what? That wasn’t the problem with Chavez. He was a thug and a dictator who, like all such despots, spent most of his time and energy destroying the lives of the people he was supposed to help.”
Now that he’s gone, his hand-picked successor will likely attempt to vilify the United States in an effort hold onto power.
Lifting trade sanctions will deny him that opportunity.