The best reason to dislike Hugo Chávez is not that he’s a Marxist or a tyrant or anti-American or any other such silliness of the likes you find in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal. The best reason to dislike Hugo Chávez is that after 11 years, it’s safe to say he’s failed as a president.
A recent illustration of this is a report from an NGO indicating that murders have almost tripled in Venezuela since Chávez took office in 1998. That year, there were 4,550 murders; in 2009, there were 16,047, or about 53 for every 100,000 people, putting Venezuela in the top three most murder-prone countries in the world.
Crime is a complicated issue, and people are right to point out that crime and police corruption were a problem before Chávez came to power. But he had 11 years, the most amazing pile of cash in the history of the country, and total control of the legislature. A skilled leader and manager with those kinds of resources could have at least kept a lid on things.
Instead, according to the same report, the Chávez government has launched a total of 15 half-cocked anti-crime initiatives, none of which has accomplished anything. As a gruesome illustration of their failure, in only the last 15 days, 230 people were murdered in Caracas.
Other examples of Chávez’ mismanagement of the country and the enormous oil bonanza he was handed last decade abound: power outages, surging inflation, capital flight, poor access to water, a brain-drain, etc. All of these are debatable to some extent.
But you can’t argue away bodies, and they’re really piling up.