Yesterday, Hugo Chavez passed away. Although he was usually presented as a villain in the United States, for the poor of Venezuela he was a friend in high places.

The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe. In that period Chávez won 56% of the vote in 1998, 60% in 2000, survived a coup d’état in 2002, got over 7m votes in 2006 and secured 54.4% of the vote last October.  Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

For Conservatives, Chavez was an easy target. He could be cast as evil because he hoped to wean poor countries in South America from exploitation by the United States. For neo-liberals, he was an even worst nightmare, someone who actually did what they preach- supporting labor and actually protecting the people from corporate predators.

Chavez was not perfect by any means, but he will be an abiding if enigmatic figure in history- a Marxist who modeled populist democracy.