Remembrances of Hugo Chavez overlook role overseas
Most of the postmortem commentary on Hugo Chávez has focused on his domestic legacy in Venezuela, his wider regional legacy within Latin America, and what we might call his hemispheric legacy – his “special relationship” with the United States. And for good reason: these were the principal realms in which he operated during his 14 years as Venezuela’s president (1999-2013) and it is for his accomplishments in these domains that he will be remembered and the Chávez Era (it was, to be sure, an era) will be evaluated.
But there’s a less discussed dimension of the Chávez legacy that ought to be examined: his relations with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, a story whose significance became more salient with the onset of the momentous changes the region has been undergoing over the last few years – not merely since the “Arab Spring” or Arab revolts starting at the end of 2010 but going back to the upheaval in Iran in the summer of 2009.
But first, let me be clear that I admire a great deal of what Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution accomplished in Venezuela. As Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, the Chávez government