After a long and lingering fight against cancer, Hugo Chavez’s death this week was not a surprise to many. And while many in Venezuela are mourning the demise of the leader, Americans have mixed sentiments about him.
Mr. Chavez maintained his position of prominence for over 14 years and was praised by the impoverished people of Venezuela since he devoted a substantial share of the country’s oil income to building public housing, creating health clinics, and making affordable food available to the poorest citizens. However, with corruption and neglect of the investments needed to maintain and increase oil production, the social programs he was highly regarded for are facing erosion.
He was also criticized for supporting malevolent foreign leaders like Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, which for many appeared to be a slap in the face to the United States government.
However, even with a blemished political career Chavez was able to gain some support from Hollywood actors like Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte. After his passing Danny Glover told TheGrio, “In sadness and in tribute to my friend, Hugo Chavez, I join with millions of Venezuelans, Latin Americans, Caribbeans, fellow U.S. citizens and millions of freedom-loving people around the world, in hope for a rewarding future for the democratic and social development charter of the Bolivarian Revolution. We all embraced Hugo Chavez as a social-champion of democracy, material development, and spiritual well-being.”
Others in Hollywood, like Sean Penn, Naomi Campbell, and Oliver Stone, also had kind words for the leader.
TheGrio proposes that the admiration from Hollywood celebrities — and specifically liberal black celebs — has to do with Chavez’s populist stance, one that’s shared by his supporters. Moreover, he made strong statements against President George W. Bush, who had few fans among African Americans and Hollywood.
The Venezuelan people are now in a long period of mourning. Then the world will wait and see what the future of Venezuela holds.
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