Chavez's victory got me to do some reading about Juan Peron and Argentina. For starters the countries are similar in being generally developed and advanced in relation to the rest of the world. Containing diverse groups of people and a bounty of natural resources, both countries have been able to generate wealth and prosper. The problem was unfair monopoly of political power throughout these countries by powerful elites as a means to ensure their economic dominance. It was this inequality which Peron and Chavez both capitalized on to catapult themselves to power. The crime was that both of these men turned around and did the exact same thing they fought against with worse and even more devastating consequences. (The following quotes and historical analysis comes from Daniel Chirot's book Modern Tyrants.)
Personally I am a syndicalist, and as such an anti-communist, but I think that we have to organize those who work into unions such that the workers and not the bosses or the agitators get the main benefits. Juan Peron-1943
If we fail to carry out the Peaceful revolution, the people will accomplish the Violent Revolution.... And the way to do this is carry forward social justice for the masses....Naturally this path will meet with their resistance. But they are their own worst enemies. Better to offer 30 percent now then in several years or perhaps months to lose all they have, including their ears.-Juan Peron-1944
In the stock exchange they are some 500 people who live by trafficking in what others produce. In the Union Industrial they are same 12 gentleman who never were real industrialists. And among the ranchers there are other gentleman, as we all know who have conspired to impose a dictatorship on this country... This is the notorious behaviour you see, of these gentlemen who have always sold out our country. These are the great capitalists who make it their business to sell us out: the lawyers who work for the foreign companies....the handful of men working with certain ambassadors (he is referring to US Ambassador) to fight people like me because we defend our country. They include the hired press....It is an honor to be opposed by such bandits and traitors-Juan Peron 1945
These could come right out of Chavez's mouth.
Peron in Power
Peron pushed redistribution policies throughout his country in an earnest desire to improve the lot of the working classes that made up the base of his supporters. The problem, a significant amount of wealth was stolen by people around him, capital flight began as international business looked for safer pastures, and the workers themselves began to demand more work for less pay, a totally natural desire but when taken to an extreme capable of destroying a nation's economy. Even worse was the dramatic expansion of the state as government owned enterprises became corrupted by massive featherbedding and incompetence. All of these things have come to pass in Chavez's Venezuela with the added corruption of every organization becoming part of the Chavez electoral machine making a free and fair election almost impossible. If not for the oil lifeline Chavez would have been tossed a long time ago, but even with the oil wealth, the Venezuelan economy is facing a grave crisis that threatens to rip the whole country apart.
The Argentine Disaster
Peron alternated between repression and moderation as he ruled the country with his Fascist partner Eva Peron. Eva known as Evita is hardly the singing friend of the people glamorized by Madonna among others, but someone who openly called for the "purification and elimination" of those who opposed Peron. Her early death in 1952 may have kept Peron from turning into the full fledged dictator that Chavez is do desperate to turn himself into. As for Peron he was eventually driven from power in 1955 (He had a brief return to power in 1973 right before he died) leaving Argentina in a state of political deadlock as various groups of union leaders, military men, student groups, and professionals attempted to gain the upper hand. In this period of civil strife and economic disorder society became radicalized leading to murders, killings and ransom demands by student-terror groups disillusioned with the system and military men who used torture and counter-insurgency tactics to smash the students. All the while the country faced economic stagnation leading to massive inflation and economic dislocation. By 1976 with country facing all out Civil War the military finally took over and with the help of various death squads wiped out all opposition real and imagined. With the economy still in collapse the generals seized the Falkland islands from Britain in 1982, a popular if later disastrous move as England promptly routed the Argentine military leading to their ouster as it was clear that the generals were great at killing Argentinians, not so great at fighting wars.
I don't write these things without the hope that Venezuela will manage to avoid what happened in Argentina and certainly the worst abuses of the Argentine Death squads which may killed 10's of thousands and perhaps even more. But a system of theft and repression are the order of the day and the powers that be now hold the whip hand in that country. Add to this the general brutalization of life in Venezuela as the homicide rate soars and crime becomes uncontrollable and you have all the elements of a future catastrophe.
God Bless the People of Venezuela.