(The Atlantic) As a politician, Hugo Chavez was a force of nature, as strangely masterful as he was polarizing. But as an economic steward, the socialist firebrand was something sadder and far more ordinary: “an awful manager,” as author Rory Carroll succinctly put it in the New York Times today, who squandered a world of opportunity after he took over Venezuela’s presidency in 1999.

It’s not that Chavez’s rule was an unqualified failure. His government made real strides towards alleviating poverty and inequality through a concentrated program of wealth redistribution. But mostly, it spent a decade drunk on easy oil profits, dolling them out on its pet causes — foreign and domestic — as the country’s petroleum industry decayed from within. Today, with Venezuela beset by high inflation and chronic food shortages, Chavez’s “socialismo” seems ever more tenuous.

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