Last evening, I called my mom about a family matter and she mentioned offhand that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez had just died. Hugo was an interesting character- not only did he ensure that the poor of Venezuela were able to share in that country's petroleum wealth, but he offered home heating oil to the poor of the United States. By having the temerity to not hand over his country's oil to the multinational corporations, Chavez was a favorite bette noir to the neocons of the world. With his passing, even the usually staid Bloomberg News is characterizing him as "Anti-U.S."
All hyperventilating aside, history will remember Chavez as a better leader than the man he called a devil. Chavez, after all, never invaded another nation, and he did more to help poor Americans than George Bush ever did. As far as Chavez' animus towards the Bush Administration, it has to be noted that the Bushies backed an attempted coup in 2002 that Chavez was able to thwart. The attempted U.S. treatment of Venezuela was creepily reminiscent of the horrible foreign policy blunder in Iran that ultimately led to the ascention of the Islamists. For all the attempts to demonize the guy, Chavez never inspired the hatred that was inculcated against former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein. I think a large part of this failure was the fact that the population of the U.S. was growing increasingly disenchanted with the "kill people and take their stuff" foreign policy, mainly because it resulted in the death of American kids, and because the loot seemed to accumulate in the coffers of administration flunkies, without trickling down.
Anyway, the world will probably be a little less interesting now that Hugo is hugone. Papi really knew how to tweak the beard of the worst persons in the U.S.. For a more nuanced take on Chavez' legacy, Jimmy Carter's farewell can't be beat (hat tip to Tengrain).