This article calls Hugo Chávez’ passing, Death of a Caudillo. I like foreign words that make it into our lexicon and Caudillo is certainly a good one:
Hugo Chávez, the late president of Venezuela, liked to present himself as a revolutionary, a socialist for the 21st century. Many members of the American Left presented him this way too. In reality he was the latest in the long line of caudillos, the strongmen who have been the scourge of Spanish America; “throwback” and “reactionary” are therefore more fitting ways to describe him.
Violence was his medium. A junior army officer, he did not hesitate to mount a coup, and once in power to devise a constitution that made him leader for life. He drove thousands into exile, expropriating their land and property. Venezuela depends on its oil, and nationalization of the oil companies gave him funds with which to buy popularity. Nobody knows the scale of the ensuing corruption, but rumor has it that Chávez and his family have amassed a fortune of $2 billion. Every week, he raised the political temperature with Alo Presidente, his very own television program, unscripted, the humor and the menace interchangeable. He militarized his supporters, putting them into red shirts and red berets. Opponents had to get the point, or face arrest if they didn’t.
As for the Caudillo, I heard an interesting story on an airplane about two years ago. A dapper-looking gentleman, who worked for a private company of some sort, chatted me up. And he said the Caudillo has blackmail evidence on various Hollywood celebrities. Hence, Sean Penn’s and Kevin Spacey’s support. . .