No petrodictator was ever so careful to observe the electoral rules and regulations after he had thoroughly jimmied them in his favor. Literally. Since a former American president, the ever-gullible and ever-incompetent Jimmy Carter himself, certified the colonel's election to a fourth term as just fine and dandy and fair all around. If old Dante Alighieri were updating his "Inferno," surely he would reserve a special place for those idealistic who do not do evil themselves but lend their enthusiastic support to those who do.
Comrade Lenin was said to have had a term for such Western types: useful idiots. Hugo Chavez attracted many of them, too, especially in Hollywood and other cultural capitals of groupthink. Fellow travelers did not disappear with the Cold War; they just got a new hero and a new ideology: Chavismo.
Now is not the time, nor is this the place for instant evaluations, or even a comprehensive one, of Comandante Chavez's tumultuous rise and reign. There will be plenty of opportunity for political post-mortems. Let us wait and let Clio, muse of history, lend her perspective. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the show. For nothing can be livelier than a long-awaited state funeral.
To quote an observation from "Evita," a musical that remains as up-to-date as the latest dictatorship:
Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!
Argentina has gone to town
Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
We've all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right
Oh what an exit! That's how to go!