Hugo Chavez was a hero to the poor in Venezuela, and many here in the U.S. What most fail to realize however is that the progress that he made in helping the poor will be short lived. Why? Plain and simple, he got lucky. He took over just at the time that Oil started to skyrocket. He used those petro dollars to improve the lives of those in Venezuela, but did nothing for the rest of the economy. Compared to the rest of the region, the Venezuelan economy is in shambles. To top it off, Venezuela today is even more dependent on Oil dollars than it was before, just as the world is starting to move away from oil. Ford, GM and Chrysler are all making trucks that run on Natural Gas, cheap and plentiful here in the States and long before it runs out, the move will be to solar and Fuel Cell technology.
Instead of investing in the future, Chavez used oil as his cash cow to finance his socialist dreams. Even worse, Chavez lavished over 100 Billion dollars on his buddies, while putting at least 1 to 2 Billion in his own pocket of the estimated Trillion Dollars in oil wealth generated since he took over. What will happen to Venezuela in 10 years when more and more cars, buses, trucks and Power Plants are converted to run on Natural Gas and as Solar continues doubling in efficiency every few years. Even worse, what would happen to Venezuela if a Conservative takes over the White House in 4 years, and removes most restrictions on drilling, and increases permits on Federal lands, thereby flooding the market with cheap oil? The U.S. has the largest untapped reserves in the world. Just look at what happened during the Reagan era when he conspired with the Saudi's to make oil super cheap, bankrupting the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, history will look upon Chavez as a short sighted opportunist who beat the populist drum of vilifying the U.S. and Capitalism. He spread the disease of Socialism in Venezuela and set them up for a major fall. The King is Dead, Long Live the King.