I’ve Never Been So Happy to Have Demonstrated Bad Timing in All My Life

So, apparently we won’t put my master plan into effect. Hugo Chavez became … oh, how shall I phrase this? … a victim of sequestration with no possibility of reversal via subsequent legislation. He joined the bleeding choir invisible. His death affords cancer a unique opportunity to improve its PR standing throughout the world.

There is little I need to add to my earlier post regarding Chavez. He was a thug and a tyrant. He violated the political and human rights of his opponents and he drove Venezuela’s economy into the ground. Deep into it. “Oh, but he won elections,” his supporters—yes, there are some—will protest. Well, if you gave control over the Venezuelan state media apparatus to me instead of to Chavez, I might have won those elections. Chavez made sure not to play on a level playing field where his political opponents might have stood a chance of beating him. He rigged the political game in his favor. It’s no wonder he won elections, but the mere winning of elections does not a democracy make. Chavez won by seizing power and resources in order to further his propaganda, and by intimidating and harassing opponents who remained brave enough to defy him. He was a great many things in his life, but “friend of liberty” was not one of those things.

Oh, and I suppose that it’s worth noting that like a great many other tyrants, Hugo Chavez was a rabid anti-Semite:

Venezuela’s Jewish community, amounting to less than 1 percent of the country’s total population of 26 million, is among the oldest in South America, dating back to the early 19th century. During the struggle for independence from Spain, the fugitive revolutionary Simón Bolívar found refuge among a group of Venezuelan Jews, some of whom later went on to fight in the ranks of his liberating army. Today, the majority of the country’s Jewish population is descended from an influx of European and North African immigrants who arrived during the years surrounding World War II. Most reside in the capital city of Caracas, comprising a tightly knit community made up of roughly equal numbers from Ashkenazi and Sephardi countries of origin.

Venezuelans pride themselves on living in an ethnic and religious melting pot. Their homeland, unlike its neighbors Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile, has no history of having harbored Nazi fugitives. Before Chávez came to power, members of the Jewish community reported little animosity from either the government or the populace, and sharply anti-Zionist rhetoric was relatively uncommon. Nor did Venezuela’s fifteen synagogues (all but one of them Orthodox) experience much of the anti-Semitic vandalism common in other Latin American countries with tiny Jewish populations. The Hebraica center—its building functions as a lavish social hub, elementary school, country club, sports facility, and gathering place for Caracas Jewry—was largely left in peace.

No longer. Since Chávez took the oath of office at the beginning of 1999, there has been an unprecedented surge in anti-Semitism throughout Venezuela. Government-owned media outlets have published anti-Semitic tracts with increasing frequency. Pro-Chávez groups have publicly disseminated copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the early-20th-century czarist forgery outlining an alleged worldwide Jewish conspiracy to seize control of the world. Prominent Jewish figures have been publicly denounced for supposed disloyalty to the “Bolívarian” cause, and “Semitic banks” have been accused of plotting against the regime. Citing suspicions of such plots, Chávez’s government has gone so far as to stage raids on Jewish elementary schools and other places of meeting. The anti-Zionism expressed by the government is steadily spilling over into street-level anti-Semitism, in which synagogues are vandalized with a frequency and viciousness never before seen in the country.

There is no reason whatsoever that so awful an individual should be missed by any decent person. And yet, some who claim to be decent people make noises vaguely resembling sorrow over Chavez’s death. One such person is Jimmy Carter, who reminds us why Americans were wrong to give him one term in office, and right to deny him a second one:

Rosalynn and I extend our condolences to the family of Hugo Chávez Frías.  We met Hugo Chávez when he was campaigning for president in 1998 and The Carter Center was invited to observe elections for the first time in Venezuela.  We returned often, for the 2000 elections, and then to facilitate dialogue during the political conflict of 2002-2004.  We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized.  Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.

Not a word spared for the victims of Chavez’s persecution. Also being morally obtuse: Representative Jose Serrano, who needs to soundly lose his next election. How much worse did Chavez have to be for Carter’s and Serrano’s eyes to have been opened?

Thankfully, we will never have to find out. Goodbye, Hugo Chavez. You will not be missed. And if you will be kind enough to indulge me, gentle readers, as a Jew, I would like to offer the following prayer—especially for the Jews in Venezuela who suffered the anti-Semitic lunacy of the Chavez regime:

                                                   .בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה