Editorial: Commitment not questioned, methods were

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

As Venezuela prepares for an election and mourns the death of Hugo Chavez, an opening has been created and the United States and its allies are peeking in with anxious eyes.

We’re skeptical to believe much change can come, but that’s just what one of the 190,000 immigrants from Venezuela — about half of whom live in Florida — said Tuesday upon learning of the former president’s death.

“We are not celebrating death,” said Ana San Jorge amid a jubilant crowd in the Miami suburb of Doral. “We are celebrating the opening of a new door, of hope and change.”
The optimism was cautious. And well it should be.

Venezuelans have had so many working for their benefit. The U.S. was among them, through policies promoting democratic principles, rule of law and respect for human rights. Those were the tenets President Barack Obama reiterated in response to Chavez’s death.

Chavez worked for his countrymen through socialist programs. He believed himself to be a protector against American influence and practices. In doing so, he spewed plenty of rhetoric against us, and the countries who sided with him were often provided gifts of cut-rate oil.

His death saddened millions and sparked reaction from around the globe. Many countries outside of Venezuela lowered flags and declared mourning.

How high was his regard? Not only have his supporters said his impact will never die, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has “no doubt Chavez will return to Earth together with Jesus and the perfect” Imam Mahdi, the most revered figure of Shiite’s Muslims, and help “establish peace, justice and kindness” in the world.

Former President Jimmy Carter might have said it best for many: “Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

Obama is hopeful of a “constructive” relationship with Venezuela going forward. We join him in that hope. Given our commitment to democracy and our disdain for socialism, skepticism clouds our outlook.

But we also remember, once upon a time, the Berlin Wall. And where there is an opening, a ray of hope, there is a chance.