Mitchell Reports | March 06, 2013
>>> here in washington, hugo chavez is being remembered for some of his more colorful outbursts against the u.s. government , like the tame back in '06 when he equated george w. bush to the devil himself.
>> translator: yesterday, the devil came here. right here. right here. and it smells of sulfur still today.
>> joining me now, steve clemons and jose ballart. steve , yes, he gets a lot of attention for calling george bush a devil, but what is the legacy of hugo chavez ?
>> hugo chavez is a revolutionary. he turned venezuelan society upsidedown. he wanted to be -- he identified himself as a socialist, but he put a real edge to it. he knocked out really the elite leadership and frankly many of the competent leaders in venezuelan society and tried to empower a different group of people, made wrenching changes. to some degree he's become a real hero of the underclass, not only in venezuela , but the world.
>> the white house did react to this. i want to put that up. they said at this challenging time of hugo chavez 's passing, the united states reaffirms the venezuelan people and its interest in reconstructing the venezuelan government . there will be an election in 30 days . what's both the political and sort of the broader global place of venezuela ? what does the future look like?
>> boy, that's a great question, and chris, you know what steve said defining hugo chavez , i think, is right on target. the question is now, what is a post- chavez venezuela going to look like, and it depends who you talk to how they think things are going to turn out. but when you have a institution that's been created -- armed forces, civil society , financial society, you know, venezuela is only the second opec country, latin america opec country. hundreds of thousands of barrels come to the united states from venezuela . when you have a man who for 14 years was able to change the entire structure of a country, now that he's gone, the people that he left to try and keep his regime afloat have really 30 days to tie things up. and the opposition has 30 days to try and convince voters that this time it will be a free and fair election and that they can really give another perspective to a country that, for the past 14 years, has really been immersed in a gut wrenching division of society, as steve was talking about.
>> and jose , you make a really important point that i think we should explore more, steve , which is this, the reign of hugo chavez was made around hugo chavez the person.
>> this is athis is a real-world version o f avita. this is a passing of someone, you can see it in the streets, their love for that man is genuine. what's strange is most thought we'd have chavez messing with us for a long time. he looked at himself as the heir to castro, and who would have taken a bet that fidel castro would outlive hugo chavez ? the point is, it is a culpable personality around him, and what jose just said is absolutely right. the opposition has been planning for this moment in venezuela . they are much better organized than one would have thought otherwise. but the vice president who is very likely to basically take the helm for chavez is also prepared, but he's also said he's expelled two u.s. diplomats, and he's saying some scary things about chavez implanting the idea chavez was poisoned or this was caused by the west. there are interesting challenges to us that are important.
>> jose , one other thing, to steven your point, how does in 30 days , how does the vice president pick up -- we think of it as sort of, well, barack obama 's the president now and joe biden is vice president. but this is much more about hugo chavez than it is about a party structure, correct?
>> yeah. this is much more akin to franco's spain that we've seen, parone in argentina. certainly, more based on that than on any kind of concept of western democracy as we understand it. but the fact is, i was in caracas on the 7th of october when the elections were held, the initial polls from the voting booths showed the opposition leader winning in many places, and that was quickly reversed. i'm not saying that it wasn't fair. i'm just saying that the polls showed one thing and then the results about 11:00 showed chavez was winning. so, he's had the reins of power for many, many years. $1 trillion has been put in the country by petroleum sales since he's been in power. there's a lot of money the government controls that cannot only give houses to those poor that never had a house in the past, but also can help grease a lot of wheels that need to be greased. far different than in the countries we know and regularly speak about.
>> the largest natural oil reserves in the world in venezuela . jose diaz , steve clemons , thank you both for the expertise. i feel smarter.
>> thank you.