The Cost of Chavez

Matt Gurney is a columnist and editor at Canada’s National Post. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney


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Since coming to power in 1998, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has presided over radical changes inside the country. Promising to create “21st century socialism,” he has reformed the constitution, giving government-funded health care to all. He has nationalized key industries in repeated attempts to address what he perceives as an imbalance between Venezuela’s business elites and its masses of poor, including a “re-nationalization” of the oil sector. He’s worked within OPEC to keep the price of oil high and contain America’s power (while also blaming it for his economic woes).

Most alarmingly, he has turned into the bully of Latin America, purchasing large quantities of Russian weapons, threatening his neighbors with war and constantly yammering on about American assassination plots and military threats whenever he needs a boost to his domestic approval ratings. He has supported the FARC terrorists in their insurgency campaign against US-ally Colombia. Clearly, the man has been busy. So busy, in fact, that it was to be expected that he would drop at least one of the balls he was juggling. Too bad for the people of Venezuela that the ball in question was the one concerned with keeping crime low and the streets safe: Under his leadership, Venezuela has become a disaster.

The statistics are sobering, and astonishing. On the whole, the country, with 26 million people, saw a whopping 19,000 murders in 2009. To put that into perspective, the state of Texas, with a comparable population of roughly 24.5 million, experienced 1,374 murders in 2008, considerably less than a tenth of Venezuela’s total. Indeed, the United States as a whole, with roughly 12 times the population of Venezuela, recorded nearly 3,000 fewer murders in 2008 than did Venezuela in 2009. (Please note the differing years reflect the most recent available data for both nations.)

Put another way, it is safer to live in Iraq than it is in Venezuela.

The problem is particularly acute in the capital city of Caracas, currently the murder capital of the world. In 2008, as rival gangs battled for control of the underworld and kidnappings for ransom flourished, the city’s central forensic lab was filled to capacity with murder victims awaiting examination, with more arriving each hour. Later that year, after more than 500 people were murdered in the capital during the month of December alone, the Ministry of Interior Relations and Justice announced a slate of initiatives designed to help bring down the rate of violent crime the next year. Community outreach into troubled areas and specialized police units operating within the capital were entrusted with bringing the murder epidemic back under control. It didn’t work.

How is Chavez, a man willing to shake his fist at mighty America, tackling this national nightmare? He’s blaming the media for reporting the extent of the problem. Rather than face up to the fact that the number of murders in Venezuela has at least doubled (some figures suggest an even great increase of 400%) since he took office, Chavez’s government is accusing the media of supporting opposition parties ahead of legislative elections later this month by running pictures of the afore-mentioned Caracas morgue, overflowing with the bodies of murder victims. Venezuela’s courts quickly deemed the images pornographic and banned similar images from publication, in a move that brought swift condemnation from the United Nations and various international press agencies. The rulings have largely been reversed, though the first two papers to publish the images remain under sanction.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Colombia is America's best friend in Latin America…Chavez, our worst enemy. While Hollywood embraces Chavez, our unions and the Democratic Party demonize Colombia and refuse to grant her MFN trade status. Just one more strand in a mountain of evidence that the Liberal/Left is a fifth column, doing everything in its power to undermine our great country.

  • welldoneson

    As a sign of stupidity, refusal to make closer ties with Columbia ranks right up there with supporting the Chavez partner-in-crime Zelaya in Honduras. Zelaya was thrown out of office on the authority of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and by all indications the popular support of Honduras. To pretend it was a military coup simply because the Court ordered the military to escort the subversive bastard out of the country was just too far beyond sensible. It became obvious the Obama admin., and much of the world, is either controlled by blinkered lefties or are just simply, complete fools.

  • AlaskanInfidel

    Obama dreams of being Chavez…

    • Baer

      Total nonsens

  • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

    If the Dems still control Congress after November, look for them to end term limits for the Great One! Then with the help of groups like ACORN, registering 12 yr. olds like MY son, bribing everyone, including Republicans, with stimulus jobs and $250 checks that addict you to them so you have to vote for them to continue to get your fix, and bribe the poor and illegals, Obama will become President for Life! God willing!

    Obama will then be seen on TV LIVE everyday. He will travel everyday to see the masses and to among the people who will faint at his very presence. The media will get chills up their legs and will be in awe of his words, sometimes screamed like his heroes: Chavez, Fidel, and Hillary! God willing!

    Being unafraid of any criticism, he will buy knee pads that will be carried everywhere by the man who used to carry the football! He will bring all troops home from foreign lands to deal with the growing threat from the enemy within: The Tea Party!

    "Long live Obama! Long live Obama! Long live Obama!" (Just practicing.)

  • Cuban Refugee

    Chavez took a beautiful, prosperous country and turned it into the slum of South America by following the Castro blueprint for disaster, and silencing anyone who dared to dissent, e.g., the television networks that he summarily closed for their words of opposition to his inflicting chaos on Venezuela. The tried and failed cookie cutter communist path threatens to destroy the United States as Obama follows and implements to the letter the Castro/Chavez misguided rules for a Marxist Utopia. It is the people who suffer and die as a result of narcissists at the helm of dark dystopias that are designed in hell. This article's description of chaos, and its eerie similarity to our current jumbled state of affairs, makes one wonder: how many days of freedom to express our opinion on this and other forums are left before we are crushed by the repressive, thuggish boot on the throat?

  • bubba4

    It's hard to believe you actually live in fear of such things. You can't top FPM with over-the-top paranoia and ridiculous conclusions not based on reality….don't try.

    • ajnn

      These postings are having a bit of fun ridiculing Obama by associating him with Chavez. No one actually believes Obama is likely to be made president-for-life.

      This is another example of someone on the Left stereotyping and projecting his prejudices against people who do not share his/her opinions.

      • bubba4

        "This is another example of someone on the Left stereotyping and projecting his prejudices against people who do not share his/her opinions."

        What is?

        With Steve Chavez it is always a bit hard to tell if he is being serious or if he is pretending to be serious to make a point, or if he actual is serious and believes what he;s saying. I see the story of his 12 year old has found it's way into his mythology even though he refused to prove it in any way. So he believes that much. Maybe the jokes on you and you've find yourself looking at your contemporaries and realizing that they are bat-sh*t crazy.

    • Samurai Hit Woman

      Just because you are blind as a bat doesn't mean Frontpage and its readers have the same affliction.

  • Mikeymojo

    I hate to admit it, but there is one area I agree with Chavez. Latin American publications often do have excessively graphic photos. Unlike him though, I would never support censorship of the printed word.

  • daniel

    Over here in Holland we had gushing reviews by state journalists on Hugo Chavez. As soon as some guy claims to help the poor they are promoted as saints.

    Lately there are no more reports on Hugo Chavez.

    It's time the anti-left coalition starts informing the people that leftist promises are just a trick to get more power. The problem is that many people don't care though. If they can get goodies they vote left.