Hugo Chavez was a buffoon and a demagogue. But was that all?
Upon his death last week, the Venezuelan president was remembered in the United States for many things: his rambling speeches, his abusive anti-American rhetoric (George W. Bush is a “devil” and a “donkey”), his human-rights violations (independent judges get locked up), his nationalization of industry and oil, his inflationary economic policies, his inability to deal with out-of-control crime, and his mad embrace of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Venezuela had replaced the Soviet Union as the main supporter of Communist Cuba, and Chavez seemed to regard himself as another Castro brother. With his passing, Washington could hope for a thaw in its relations with a nation that, through all the turmoil, remains its fourth-largest source of imported oil.