Mar 7, 2013 - The Kansas City StarVenezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez portrayed himself as a man of the people, a defender of the poor. But during his long tenure, life for Venezuela's unfortunate became markedly worse.
Chavez died Tuesday, the 60th anniversary of the death of Stalin.
Like so many looters who pose as men of the people, he expropriated property, notably from the oil industry, and used the country's oil wealth to fund generous benefits -- and build up his own dictatorship.
The damage to Venezuela's future was considerable, not to mention its reputation.
The rich fled. Farms and companies were nationalized. Capital dried up, along with job creation.
Those of modest means in whose name Chavez ruled face chronic inflation and severe shortages of critical commodities such as food and medicine.
Chavez warped the country's constitution to facilitate one-man rule and install a compliant supreme court.
His vice president, Nicolas Maduro, will face election in 30 days unless he, like Chavez, can bend that requirement as well.
With his cartoonish accusation that Washington somehow infected Chavez with his fatal cancer, Maduro seems cut from the same cloth.
Chavez's career was another reminder of the dangers posed by self-serving populists.
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