San Francisco's left gathered at 24th and Mission on Sunday afternoon to mourn and honor deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Old and young were there, including many from the Latino immigrant left.
I never knew quite what I thought of Hugo Chavez. I loved it when he jerked pretentious Northamericans around, accused George W. of being a sulpher-emitting "Satan," presented Obama with a copy of Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. Much of Latin America has finally thrown off U.S. economic and political domination in the last decade -- Chavez led the way. Majorities of Venezuelans elected him repeatedly. How was I to evaluate what he was doing?
I'll let the right -- Bloomberg Businessweek -- describe his accomplishments.
But charismatic leaders, leaders whose proud bluster seems too often to lead back to their personal vision and central importance, undermine genuine participatory democracy. I have friends who know Venezuela well who lament the violent crime and chronic corruption in Caracas. Chavez's Venezuela is a very hard place to live and work for most everyone, despite all the oil wealth and the political excitement.
I'll let the left -- Greg Grandin in the Nation -- recite some of Chavez' faults.
But Grandin still assesses Hugo Chavez as a uniquely inspiring figure for all his faults. Millions of Venezuelans and their friends around the world agree. This is not something to quarrel with or to discount.