There are very few heads of state that most Americans can name, Hugo Chavez was one of them. I haven’t followed his political career closely, but I must admit I have a soft spot for revolutionaries. It is not easy to stand up to America, maintain your power, and avoid isolationism. While it is easy to see the flaws in capitalism, it is difficult to imagine viable alternatives. Anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, or anti-American, Chavez worked to change the course of Venezuela and Latin America. His government was generous with their oil wealth, even donating heating oil to homeless shelters in the US and low-income Americans. This doesn’t mean he didn’t do some harm along the way, but like all leaders Chavez was complex–neither all saint nor all sinner.
We can’t say for sure what his legacy will be, one thing is for sure–we are all going to be hearing a lot about Chavez and Venezuelan politics in the near term. This article in The Atlantic sums up nicely his influence in the region and his revolutionary spirit.