The Ed Show | March 05, 2013
>>> and we are back. he led venezuela for 14 years and was a long-time vocal critic of the united states government . today after a two-year battle with cancer, hugo chavez is dead. he leaves behind a complicated legacy in venezuela , and his death could have substantial implications here at home. the white house issued a statement earlier this evening. "at this challenging time of president hugo chavez 's passing, the united states reaffirms its support for the venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the venezuelan government ." here is nbc's mark pot were more.
>> reporter: hugo chavez was first elected venezuela 's president in 1998 and became a polarizing figure on the world stage. he was loved and hated at home, respected and ridiculed abroad. born to a family of teachers in 1954 , chavez joined the venezuelan airplane, where he came to despise the ruling elite. in 1989 when a bad economy led to riots and hundreds were killed, chavez was appalled by orders from then president carlos andres perez to shoot civilians. in 1992 , chavez , now a lieutenant colonel, led 12,000 troops in a failed coup against perez. chavez was jailed, but pardoned two years later. by then a champion to the left and the poor. he was hardly a democratic ruler, using his power to silence opponents and journalists and to nationalize private companies while championing the poor by building schools and health clinics. but krit tibbs say his attempts to remake venezuela backfired.
>> an enormous amount of money spent uselessly. conflicts with the united states , limit takes to freedom of the press, throwing opposition leaders in jail or throwing them out of the country.
>> reporter: he bonded with cuba 's fidel castro who became his mentor, and embraced iran mahmoud ahmadinejad . he taunted the u.s., even calling then president george w. bush the devil at the united nations . toward the end of his life, chavez battled cancer and sought treatment in cuba . after an apparent recovery, chavez was reelected last fall to his fourth term in office, but shortly afterward was felled again by cancer. hugo chavez , a man of extremes leaving a dramatic mark on latin america . mark potter , nbc news, miami.
>> joining us tonight, william dobson , politics and foreign affairs editor at slate and author of "the dictator's learning curve ." mr. dobson, good to have you with us tonight. venezuela is the fourth largest foreign oil supplier to the united states . what does his death mean for this country in terms of oil supplies in the market?
>> right. well, i mean in terms of oil supply in the market, i don't think you'll see a tremendous change right away. i mean, the thing that everyone is going to be watching is what the political situation is in venezuela in the days to come, whether or not the situation actually truly is unstable or not. i think that for many cases, though, for the united states , it's one of the powers that actually stands to have the least change. i mean, as it's been for years, no matter what the rhetoric was that came out of caracas, the united states was venezuela 's chief buyer of oil when diplomatic relations would have appeared to be at their worse. so i don't think that will change in the near future. it's not in anyone's interest.
>> does his death complicate things for the obama administration, or does it just offer a big opportunity here?
>> it could offer an opportunity. i think really what has to happen, what the obama administration is going to be looking for is what the venezuelan people do. according to the constitution in venezuela , they are supposed to hold an election within the next 30 days . most likely, that will be between chavez 's handpicked successor, nicolas maduro and the leader of the opposition in the election against chavez last october, enrique capriles. my thought is maduro will probably do well in the election. but it's difficult to say if anyone can run the country the way chavez did. chavismo was based on chavez , not anyone else .
>> is there a chance that things could go south, or are they stable?
>> well, actually, in truth, the country that will be affected the most by this will be cuba . cuba saw in venezuela its lifeline. venezuela replaced the soviet union as its sort of chief supporter, its chief backer. so i think that right now probably this news, which we've known is coming, is probably most upsetting for officials in havana. for others like russia, we'll see. they're losing potentially one of their largest arms buyer. china will have concerns about its debt with venezuela . iran loses a big diplomatic backer. in the region, countries like bolivia, ecuador, nicaragua lose their most articulate and loudest spokesman, certainly. so there will be effects, but i think in a dramatic way it will be largest felt in cuba , and of course venezuela itself.
>> william dobson of slate, good to have you on the "ed show." thanks.
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