Leader: Death of a populist

 

Few world leaders irritated the United States more than Hugo Chávez, the Latin American populist and socialist who won four elections in Venezuela and has now been struck down by cancer at the age of 58. Chávez used Venezuela’s huge oil wealth to become a powerful global figure, a spokesman for the poor and a scourge of American power. He mocked Bush, was friends with Castro and formed alliances with reviled states such as Iran. Many on the left adored him because of his people’s socialism and his loathing for the US. But his legacy is mixed. Opponents were intimidated and, through judicial meddling, he acted to eliminate threats to his rule. He leaves behind a more equal country, but one with a desperately unbalanced economy that requires urgent economic and democratic reform.