25 years ago – all the people of Venezuela have known since is Hugo Chavez.Chavez in the morning,Chavez at night.Chavez in the soup and on the ricebags and stamped across the ever-scarcer toilet paper. Dressed mostly in red – until the occasional blue became necessary to bury a political rival. Then back to red.The visage of the man fattening out before the ever-watchful eyes of the cameras as his grip upon power solidified; until he swelled with disease that seemed to mirror the bloated, infirm county he refused to release from his wicked grasp. His every absence a source of controversy; his every word a promise and a threat. He seemed to stand across the very top of the continent – calling all the people unto himself as some sort of mestizo messiah of the poor and the destitute and the angry and the jealous.And come they did; from Argentina and Chile and Brazil and Mexico, more powerful countries but without so great a leader. They came out of fear lest he find in them an enemy and seek their downfall. They came for opportunity; because they too had hate in their hearts. They came for handouts; they came to take advantage. All that Hugo Chavez really cared about was that they came – to pay homage to him, that poor boy from that mud house in the Venezuelan Great Plains.It was a great party indeed, for those who like that sort of thing – until the morning-time; because national hangovers are an awful thing.I won’t go into much detail on the tremendous damage done. Figures are boring; and so great figures as represent the suicide of Venezuela are hard to hold in your imagination.A trillion dollars missing – a trillion dollars? Ten percent of the country emptied out – that’s three million people. An entire mega-city, gone, dissipated like a vapor into New York and Miami and Madrid; taking with them what they could, what they might, what they were permitted; burning the rest. 300,000 violent deaths; a civil war really. 80,000 businesses gone, “expropriated” and abandoned or simply swept away amid the powerful tides of revolution.The exchange rate went from 5 Bolivares to the dollar – to 4.5 million.Two generations of lives lost marching and resisting and voting and conspiring and fleeing; in a closed loop that has extended – even after the dictator died.Can you carry such things in your consciousness?I sure can’t. 25 years – the slow, agonizing murder of a country at the hands of one evil man married to a defunct idea.25 years. 25 years, and the story still goes on.
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