A couple of years ago, I wrote a post in which I argued that Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, wasn't the horrific dictator the right-wing portrayed him to be. This is because I am occasionally the poster child for the politically ill-informed.
Today reminded me that Hugo Chavez is, in fact, every ounce the corrupt sleazeball the wags at Fox News portray him as being. In an act of socialist skulduggery worthy of any tinpot South American dictator, Chavez coolly 'appropriated' 11 oil rigs belong to US company Helmerich & Payne, who had been drilling off the coast of Venezuela for the past 52 years.
Chavez was frustrated because two of the rigs had stopped drilling for his beloved 'black gold' back in January, and the other nine rigs were scheduled to stop drilling in July. This is because PDVSA - the state-run oil company in Venezuela - had racked up a cool $100 million in unpaid payments to the American rig owners.
It's theft, plain and simple - and not exactly unprecedented. Last year Dallas-based Ensco International stopped drilling after PDVSA racked up $35 million in late payments and instead of just paying what they owed, Hugo Chavez 'resolved' the situation by 'nationalizing' (i.e. stealing) the American rigs.
This kind of behavior is a neat little reminder that Hugo Chavez is, essentially, nothing more than a swaggering gangster and his version of 'socialism' is very far removed from anything Karl Marx (or others) envisioned.
In the great scheme of South American tinpot presidentes, Chavez doesn't rate high as much a malevolence - but neither is he the legitimate character many liberal-minded Americans (including some with unprecedented access to the White House) like to pretend he is.