As Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lay dying in a Caracas military hospital on Tuesday, it appears that he wasn’t ready to go.General Jose Ornella says that amongst Chavez’s last words were, “I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die.”
“He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips”, the general told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
It’s understandable that the 58-year-old Chavez didn’t see his work as done.
Born into a working-class family, Chavez became president in 1999 after pursuing a political ideology of Bolivarianism, named after 19th Century anti-colonialist Simón Bolívar, and declaring his plan “socialism of the 21st century.”
In some regards his plan was successful. Bloomberg notes he helped cut the country’s poverty rate to 29.5 per cent in 2011 from 48.6 per cent in 2002, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America.
Venezuela’s quality of life improved at the third-fastest pace worldwide during his time as leader.
But the economy hasn’t been doing so well. Long buffered with oil money, Venezuela has suffered from a 13 per cent drop in oil output since 1999. Last year the Wall Street Journal wrote:
The growing deficit raises Venezuela’s borrowing costs to a level seen by many economists as unsustainable until the country reins in spending, gets a boost to its income through higher oil prices, or devalues its local Strong Bolivar currency to make it buy more domestically.
Even when dying, Chavez clearly thought he was the man for this economic battle, and many Venezuelans likely did too.
The question now is whether Venezuela’s economy will be safe in the hands of Chavez’s anointed heir, Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver whose uninspired slogan is “I am Chavez,” or Henry Capriles, his centre right nemesis.
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