The news of the death of Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez, has predictably received divergent responses from the international media. His passing was met with glee by opponents of Chávez – who claim that his presidency was characterised by personalism, economic mismanagement and autocratic leanings – and met with dismay by supporters of the President and the Bolivarian Revolution – who see the potential for the undermining of his legacy, the vast improvements in social indicators, the attempts to socialise the economy and the recovery of a left-wing alternative after thirty years of neoliberalism.
This polarisation of the international media reflects the political polarisation within Venezuela. While sections of the opposition partied in Miami, Chávez’s supporters filled plazas throughout Venezuela on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, thousands marched with the coffin on its journey to lie in state in the Military Academy.
What unites both points of view, though, is an appreciation of the pivotal role of President Chávez in leading the transformation of Venezuela since 1999. The most fundamental question, therefore, has to be whether the Bolivarian Revolution can survive without this key figure.
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