Vulgar, crude, spiteful, horrid, malicious are perhaps some of the words we can fish out of our lexicon to describe the abhorrent reactions of the West, particularly that in the United States and Britain, to the premature demise of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It was not BBC alone; in fact almost the entire gamut of the American political class showed in their reaction to Chavez's death how despicably unfit the West is to be called civilised.
In the United States, the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce, was particularly distasteful. He called Chavez "a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear" and added that his demise was a "Good riddance to this dictator." CNN's report quoted Human Rights Watch criticising Chavez's 1999-2013 presidency, saying it was "characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees."
British media major BBC stooped the lowest in its exhibition of the fact that it has run completely out of all integrity. An article by Jon Kelly, Hugo Chavez and the era of anti-American bogeymen, is horrifyingly spiteful and crude in its essence smacking of malice. Kelly and BBC went ahead in hinting that any criticism of the US government and US policies was to be on the side of the terrorists and their evil goals. Photograph of Chavez was displayed in the panel with murderers, despots and terrorists like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden.
BBC's depravity is shocking. And all the more because it rudely shook our belief about English civility.
The United States has been waiting for something like this to happen since past two years when the first announcement came that Chavez was suffering from cancer. Washington may not have officially celebrated the demise but is certainly viewing in the development opportunities crystallising.
In the past two decades American fiefdom in Venezuela and Latin America has been depleting. At the core of this depletion lay many reasons and one foremost is what a former US ambassador to Caracas, Charles Shapiro has said. "Chávez blamed a failed 2002 coup against him on the United States (not true), nationalised US companies, insulted the president of the United States and blamed 'the empire' – his term for the United States – for every ill … In foreign affairs, the government actively supports the Assad regime in Syria, rejects sanctions on Iran and generally opposes the US at every turn."
Chavez had been the catalyst in creating an unprecedented political polarisation in not only Venezuela but also in the whole of Latin America. Unfortunately, every single US president in the past two decades and more, but George W. Bush in particular, has been rather unintelligent in their responses to the slide. Yet, neither Venezuela nor other Latin American leaders let the slide go beyond limits or allowed the fissure (perhaps more than that) to rapture beyond repair.
Evidently, death of Chavez offers US President Barack Obama chances to restart and reset relations with Venezuela, repair America's depleting fiefdom in Latin America. Washington, in fact, imports more crude oil annually from Mexico and Venezuela than from the entire Gulf region. And this shared commercial interest salvaged the relations between North and South America to snap completely.
Immediate reintroduction of neo-liberalism in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America, particularly in Cuba, may not be possible. Hugo Chavez is no more, Fidel Castro is virtually out of all political reckoning. Washington sees Raúl Castro, President of Cuba as a cautious but willing partner for Barack Obama. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro is apparently a fierce Chavez loyalist. Yet, he is known for his die hard pragmatism and is believed to be having a close ties, rather personal friendship with the Cuban President Raúl Castro.
"Regionally speaking, Chávez's death will have an important effect on Venezuela's satellite countries. Cuba is certainly the most vulnerable. The Cuban economy would probably implode without the massive oil subsidy it receives from Venezuela. This would jeopardize the continuity of the Castro regime. This is why Havana is playing such an active role in deciding who will replace Chávez and how the succession should play out. Other regional allies such as Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia would also face cutbacks in economic assistance but not big enough to threaten their leaders' hold on power."
Pithily, Latin American political climate is propitious for Washington. Yet, a lot would depend how Obama and his mandarins seizes this opportunity, especially in view of Washington's "historical neglect of Latin America." True, Washington cannot afford to delay even by a day to reposition itself in Venezuela and Latin America. Yet, its move must be cautious and calculated.
Chavez may have gone; Fidel Castro is out of reckoning, but their joint legacy is too strong to be overridden overnight. Their legacy is as strong as that of Che Guevara, Evo Morales, Salvador Allende and Camilo Cienfuegos.
American daily, Los Angels Times has correctly surmised the shape of things to take place. For 14 years, Chavez sought to build a role as a regional leader by flamboyantly defying what he called the "Yankee empire." He cultivated ties with Iran, a leading U.S. adversary, and assembled a bloc of left-leaning Latin American countries to challenge Washington's political and economic dominance in the Western Hemisphere.
Though Chavez's immediate successors probably won't jettison his socialist domestic policy, those in position to take over don't appear to have the same hunger for regional leadership or the skill to take on such a role, say current and former US officials and other analysts. That could make the relationship with Washington less rancourous, if not exactly warm.