Hugo Chávez’ Mixed Legacy


March 7, 2013


Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief and Americas Society/Council of the Americas Senior Director Christopher Sabatini spoke to CNN's Ali Velshi on March 6 about the polarized reactions to Hugo Chávez' death as U.S. celebrities like Oliver Stone and Sean Penn issued statements on Twitter praising the late Venezuelan president for reducing poverty in Venezuela.

"Chávez did a lot of things and he paid attention to the poor, which the previous regime...had sort of left out of politics," Sabatini said. "And certainly, that captured the imagination of people like Sean Penn and Oliver Stone. But on the other hand, he didn't abide by human rights, he railed against the opposition, he controlled and nationalized a number of key media [outlets], tore down the independence of the Supreme Court, and essentially pulled Venezuela out of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights."

Sabatini also said that although Chávez "became a voice of anti-American tendencies in the region," he never really posed a security threat to the United States. "It was mostly a lot of buffoonery, a lot of name calling, a lot of bullying, but not a real threat."

Finally, reflecting on the chances for Venezuela's opposition in the presidential elections, which are scheduled to be held within the next 30 days, Sabatini said that all signs point to a victory for Venezuelan Vice-President and interim president Nicolás Maduro, Chávez' chosen successor. Chávez convincingly won Venezuela's October 2012 presidential elections by a margin of 11 percentage points, while Chávez supporters won in 20 out of 23 Venezuelan states. "It's really Maduro's election to lose," Sabatini said.

Watch the full interview here.

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