Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez has died, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced today.
Chávez was a controversial figure, polarizing opinion both in Venezuela and in the rest of the world, and "clashing with business interests at home and with the United States and other leading industrial nations abroad," NPR writes.
If you want some context on who Chávez was, and how his politics were viewed from both ends of the political spectrum, here are some good long reads:
'Venezuela: Concentration and Abuse of Power Under Chávez' from HRW
Human Rights Watch released a 133-page report in July, 2012 on the human rights situation in Venezuela. Their findings? "The concentration of power under President Hugo Chávez has taken a heavy toll on human rights in Venezuela." You can read a synopsis and download the full report right here.
'The Secret Rise of 21st Century Democracy' from Truthout
For a positive take on Chávez's Venezuela, check out this piece from Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. They argue that "if Americans knew the real truth about the growth of real democracy in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, we would demand economic democracy and participatory government." The authors believe that under Chávez, ordinary Venezuelans were part of a "grassroots movement creating the economy and government they wanted, often pushing Chávez further than he wanted to go."
Hugo Chávez kept his promise to the people of Venezuela from The Guardian
Oscar Guardiola-Rivera writes that Chávez's "Bolivarian revolution has been crucial to a wider Latin American philosophy." He suggests that the president's ability to communicate with his people has helped him provide "healthcare and literacy to formerly excluded people." He concludes "the support of the army and the masses of Venezuela will decide the fate of the Bolivarian revolution, and the solidarity of powerful and sympathetic neighbours like Brazil."
'An Empty Revolution: The Unfulfilled Promises of Hugo Chávez' from Foreign Policy
This piece looks at how much Chávez's focus on prioritizing the needs of the poor (which the author says is genuine) has actually improved life in Venezuela. Francisco Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of Economics and Latin American Studies at Wesleyan University, argues that despite its focus on helping the poor, Chávez's government and its social programs have had little positive effect.
'Slumlord: What Has Hugo Chávez Wrought In Venezuela?' from the New Yorker
Jon Lee Anderson writes about conditions in Caracas, which he says once had "a reputation as one of the region's most attractive and modern cities," but has now "deteriorated beyond all measure." He says "Caracas is a failed city," and he lays the blame for the decline of the city and Venezuela itself at Chávez's feet.
'Gonzalez: Controversy aside, there is no denying Hugo Chávez redefined Latin American politics' from the NY Daily News
Journalist Juan Gonzalez, writing in January after Chávez was unable to attend his inauguration due to his illness, says that "whether you admire him or hate him, there is no denying that Chávez has altered the political life of Latin America." He points out that Chávez "instituted massive programs to improve the lives of Venezuela's working class" and that "a recent CIA report showed a sharp decline in income inequality there since Chávez came to power."
'Hugo Chávez still has a hold on Venezuela's people - he's one of them' from The Guardian
Writing just after Chávez won reelection in 2012, Edward Ellis describes the hold the president still had on the population after 13 years in power. Spending time in a bar ahead of the election, he found people who were fiercely loyal to their leader. His conclusion: "What Chávez is, in fact, is Venezuelan: there is no more authentic a representative or the country's character than him. He is gregarious, loquacious, intensely nationalistic, contradictory, sometimes petulant, and he displays an uncanny, chameleon-like ability to be everything to everyone."