Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, is dead. Think of him as a Barack Obama type, only worse. Much worse. This guy actually had military experience and was the quintessential “caudillo.”
What is a “caudillo?”

A Latin American military dictator. In the wake of the Latin American independence movement in the early 19th century, politically unstable conditions and the long experience of armed conflict led to the emergence in many of the new countries of strongmen who were often charismatic and whose hold on power depended on control over armed followers, patronage, and vigilance. Because their power was based on violence and personal relations, the legitimacy of the caudillos’ rule was always in doubt, and few could withstand the challenges of new leaders who emerged among their own followers and wealthy patrons.

Chavez took populism to new heights and certainly did not adhere to a rule of law. But, the United States does not have much moral high ground for criticizing Chavez. Chavez defined domestic opponents in terms of “terrorism” and, just like us, locked them up. He did a masterful job of demonizing the wealthy while, at the same time, cutting deals with some of the very wealthy who were willing to play ball with him. Guess what? Those insiders made even more money. Of course, the play to pay rule required that they help enrich Chavez and his cronies.

This is included setting up offshore accounts to hide the wealth. Obama has not gone to that extreme. But if you look at the “green energy” boondoggles that have reaped millions in taxpayer funded “gifts” it is the same kind of crony payoff.

Chavez was particularly pernicious in pandering to Islamic terrorists. He facilitated the movement of wealthy Lebanese merchants, with ties to Hezbollah, from Maicao, Colombia to new homes in Venezuela. They were able to pursue their black market smuggling without fear of being grabbed by the United States.

Chavez was a throwback to the 60s and 70s. He played lefty redistributionist politics to the detriment of Venezuela. Panama has benefitted enormously from Chavez. Wealthy Venezuelans have relocated to Panama City and the skyline of that city has erupted in a massive number of skyscrapers and new condos and luxury homes. I was in Panama today and was shocked at what has transpired since my last visit two years ago.

The photo below is taken from Punta Patilla, which is at the southern end of main Panama City. The skyscrapers in the distance have been built in the last two years. It is called Costa del Este. There also is a new neighborhood in the area called “Little Venezuela.”

Panama’s economy is booming, thanks in large part to Venezuelan capital seeking a safe haven. The death of Chavez is not going to lead to any major changes in policy in Venezuela, at least in the short term.

What is Chavez’s legacy? He has driven away many of the wealthy and educated who are critical to building a sound economic future in Venezuela. His replacement lacks the charisma and political savvy of Chavez. The future for Venezuela will be one of instability. The good news? The new leader will probably not be able to spend as much money enabling leftists in Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador. The bad news? Nicholas Maduro, the new Chavez, is just as much a dick. He spoke today:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was infected with cancer by “imperialist” enemies, his No. 2 alleged on Tuesday, adding that the socialist leader was suffering his hardest moments since an operation three months ago…

“We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness,” Maduro said, repeating a charge first made by Chavez himself that the cancer was an attack by “imperialist” foes in the United States in league with domestic enemies.

“The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,” Maduro said, comparing it with allegations that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, may have been poisoned by Israeli agents.

Sadly, and this applies not just to Obama but also to Bush, the United States has ignored Latin America and not been very effective in tapping into the growth that is occurring throughout the region, at least in South America and Panama. Chavez? Good riddance.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • Nor Alexander

    Chavez won more than 12 fair and square elections and just won a fair and square re-election. He was the legitimate and democrat leader of Venezuela and that drives you conservatives nuts. He should be admired for standing up to the U.S. and ex-CIA guys like Larry Johnson. What were you Larry Johnson doing in Guatemala in all those years. Were you working for the people of that country… if you look at the actual numbers the Venezuela economy did not actually do that bad under Chavez. Most of all the ills you ready about Chavez impact on Venezuela is nothing but propaganda.


    Report: Venezuela’s opposition parties have agreed with Capriles that he will run in upcoming presidential election – @Reuters

  • jrterrier

    sorry to post OT. Sen Rand Paul is carrying on a filibuster of the against the nomination of Brennan as CIA chief. Love it. It’s much better than the pseudo-filibuster rule which deems a matter filibustered if a bill cannot get 60 votes in favor. I think this is very healthy. It started with Paul talking by himself for 4 hours and now other Senators who support his position have come onto the floor to ask him questions & give their own speeches.
    it requires the Senators to express their views. Sen Rubio is now on the floor questioning Rand/giving a speech. Earlier it was the Dem Senator from OR.


    c-span live filabuster on brennan


    chavez not authoritarian enough.
    there are actual fools that think this way that write columns.
    remind me of a ex German soldier that I met in the 60s that thought Hitler was good for Germany


    Speaking on the Senate floor at length & actively filibustering Brennan’s nomination until further notice – @SenRandPaul

  • Dew_South

    The first order of business for “liberators” like Chavez is enriching themselves by enslaving people. The names of the predators change, but the circumstances of the impoverished rarely do. Death is a good start on balancing the ledger.

  • Popsmoke

    Well Diosdado Cabello ain’t much better and he is now in the power position. Anybody there we can support?

  • getfitnow

    Hopefully, he’s “sulfur” now.
    “Although we have not agreed with all of the
    methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.” — Jimmy Carter.
    The scary thing is he’s not alone in his sentiments.

    • foxyladi14

      Amazing I have seen all those tears. lol

  • KenoshaMarge

    I certainly will shed no tears for this POS. I suspect, hope, he is now being told to go to hell.

    Although he was the only head of state in the world that talked more than POTUS.


    brought this up from downstairs.
    a Soros group telling the left NOT to eulogize Chavez.
    My first thought they do not want the real truth of the aims of the left to come out in the open at this time

    • nickoury

      Love the comments.


    way off topic

    just found this article about the people that worked for Ian Fleming during WW2. Had this thought that you and Pop and Retired would have loved to sit down with them and trade stories. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall and listen to them


    for someone who says he loved the poor he sure did not want to be poor. family fortune valued at $2billion.
    maybe that is what backtrack is aspiring to accumulate

    • KenoshaMarge

      It will take a least that much to support FLOTUS in the style to which having access to the coffers of the US government has accustomed her to.

      • elizabethrc

        The poor thing still doesn’t understand that money does not buy class.

  • buzzlatte3

    Thank you Larry for making the comparison of Obama to Chavez in your second sentence. I’ve always felt that Obama was more like Chavez than different. If anything, Obama is a relic from a time and political theory that has long since proved it’s unworthiness to remain relevant. I heard Chavez’ demise was a blow to socialism. Let’s hope it’s another nail in the coffin, at least.

    • elizabethrc

      That parallel is much too close for comfort. And don’t think for a moment that Obama will not leave office (assuming he ever does) without having accumulated a vast fortune which will never be investigated.
      I know nothing of the Venezuelan history or people, but if one is to believe that ‘people are people everywhere’, what happened in that country can certainly happen here. The question is how does our history benefit us? Are we really the same or will we have the courage to refuse Obama’s attempts to make this country into something unrecognizable to loyal Americans?
      Part of our problem is that we, as a nation, are pretty straightforward people. We take things at face value, people at their word (well, maybe not politicians so much) and we tend to think that ‘things like that can’t happen here’. I think we’re still trying to get our heads around how much Obama has already screwed up as regards our rights. Half the nation was never asleep. It’s the other half we need to wake up.