I’m reading Comandante: Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. The book contains an interesting perspective on this leader, from an executive at the Venezuelan national oil company:
Sansó defended Chávez’s energy policy, saying the comandante had helped revive OPEC, sending prices rising even before the Iraq war, and had had the vision to recognize Venezuela’s oil was not just around Lake Maracaibo, in the west, but also in the center of the country along the Orinoco in a smiling arc known as the Faja. The same wilderness that had swallowed gold-seeking conquistadores contained enormous deposits of extra-heavy crude. The black ooze had long been written off as tar, a costly-to-extract type of liquid coal, and the old PDVSA gave foreign oil companies a virtual free hand to develop it. Chávez insisted it was oil, and eventually even the U.S. Geological Survey agreed. The zone contained an estimated 220 billion barrels—making Venezuela’s total reserves vaster than Saudi Arabia’s. Chávez partly nationalized the Faja in 2007, taking majority shares in the operations, an audacious decision that infuriated the foreign oil companies working there. “For that alone Chávez was worth it,” said Sansó. “He was crazy enough to do it. Any reasonable guy wouldn’t have had the guts. He would have said it’s not possible. A century from now Chávez will be remembered and thanked for this, no matter what else happens.”
The book could use some editing. It jumps back and forth in time. There is some redundancy. But it is highly relevant right now when politicians and newspapers worldwide are trying to get people excited about “income inequality” (e.g., see this New York Times op-ed from yesterday). Chávez did not just talk about income inequality but took action.