I’m not really qualified to comment on the now Late Hugo Chavez (but that won’t stop me), who served as dictator of Venezuela. He came and went and I only caught news of his antics from time to time and paid little to no attention.
I think it’s safe to say he was a demagogue.
He appealed to the poor and often ignorant masses, even though he himself lived in luxury. He was a poor boy who reached the highest rung on the ladder, via the military. Interestingly enough, he managed to get into politics after a failed coup attempt in which he took part and served some prison time for. He may or may have not done some good things for people in Venezuela but I am not aware that he did anything to change the state of affairs in which wealthy elites run the show and most everyone else is kept ignorant and poor.
In Argentina the late Juan Perón created a political movement designed to appeal to everyone, the rich and the poor and the middle class, and most of all designed to keep him in power.
In Cuba, a rich man’s son, Fidel Castro, led a socialist revolution that was supposed to uplift the masses. But mostly it just uplifted Castro and his buddies and the Cuban Communist Party members. I think they did reportedly do a fairly decent job in providing health care, at least that is what I have heard.
Mexico is just corrupt. Always has been, and seems like will be for some time to come. The payoff and dependence on the patrón seems to be ingrained in the Mexican culture. The ongoing drug war feeds off the notion that the only way to riches is through crime and corruption.
As long as the masses can be stirred by class warfare, democracy and a raise in the standard of living for all is hard to achieve. Dictators will play off the prejudices and fears of the people and reap the benefits of what society produces for them.
Chávez is being played up as hero I notice in much of the Latin American press and elsewhere. Being anti-U.S. is often good politics south of the border.
But why do so many come north then?
Probably things will change for the better in Latin America, and in fact have in many ways. But the problem or the difference may be that the U.S.’s history is of people coming here for equal opportunity and the notion there is no class system. In Latin America generations have been raised in a class society made up of predominantly two classes, the rich and the poor (very little middle class, although it has made some strides in places). The rich do everything they can to maintain the status quo. The poor learn how to operate in a society of favors and bribes and protection offered by paternal figures, who in turn demand support from those to whom they offer protection. In the past, I think, the U.S. took a wrong-headed approach in supporting dictators down south because at least they were anti-communist. In the process, a lot of bad will was created in what was seen as Yankee imperialism. It might have been better to let it play out. Communism falls on its own. It just does not work.