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Hollywood mourns Hugo Chavez

By Garth Kant

Nobody loves a dictator like celebrity liberals. Unless it’s a fellow dictator. Or the establishment media.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared a day of mourning for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He compared Chavez to a saint, saying he will “return to Earth together with Jesus” on “resurrection day.”

Ahmadinejad says he has no doubt Chavez will return not only with Jesus, but also the Imam Mahdi, the most revered figure of Shiite Muslims, to “establish peace, justice and kindness” in the world.

Ahmadinejad calls the cancer that killed Chavez at age 58 “suspicious.”

The late Venezuelan’s fellow socialist, Bolivian President Evo Morales, says, “Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation.”

Hollywood celebrities echoed the sentiments.

“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion,” said actor Sean Penn in a statement. “I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela.”

At a December candlelight vigil for Chavez in Bolivia, Penn had said, “He’s one of the most important forces we’ve had on this planet, and I’ll wish him nothing but that great strength he has shown over and over again. I do it in love, and I do it in gratitude.”

Actress Roseanne Barr also tweeted mourning for Chávez, saying, “Ruling Classes hated Hugo Chavez. RIP.”

But not every actor followed the script.

“My greatest regret at the passing of America-hating strongman Hugo Chavez, is that he didn’t live long enough to party with Dennis Rodman,” wrote Rob Lowe.

Comedian Michael Ian Black wrote, “Please respect Sean Penn’s privacy during this difficult time. #riphugo”

And filmmaker Oliver Stone sees the death of Chavez as a loss to mankind.

“I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place,” Stone said in a statement. “Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history.” And, “My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore used Twitter to defend Chavez.

Moore wrote, “You won’t hear much nice about him in the US media in the next few days. So, I thought I’d say a couple things to provide some balance.

“54 countries around the world allowed the US to detain(& torture) suspects. Latin America, thanks 2 Chavez, was the only place that said no.

“Before they cheerleaded us into the Iraq War, the US media was busy cheering on the overthrow of Chavez: http://mmflint.me/Zn9CCQ”

Moore also claimed, “Hugo Chavez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all.

“That made him dangerous. US approved of a coup to overthrow him even though he was a democratically-elected President.”

However, the evidence about how Chavez used that oil wealth indicates otherwise. Chavez reportedly was worth at least a billion dollars when he died Tuesday.

The global risk assessment and threat mitigation firm Criminal Justice International Associates estimated in 2010 that the Chavez family had amassed a fortune somewhere between $1 and $2 billion.

The report says the vast majority of those assets were oil-related. It also says the Chavez family obtained its wealth through legal and illegal methods. CJIA estimates the Chavez family, and hundreds of other criminal organizations, “subtracted $100 billion out of the nearly $1 trillion in oil income made by PDVSA (Venezuela’s state controlled oil company), since 1999.”

Fantastic wealth is not uncommon among undemocratic leaders who characterize themselves as men of the people. Chavez buddy and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is worth $500 million, estimates Forbes. And that doesn’t even count “funds in bank accounts all over the world, large inventories of assets inside Cuba, and real estate holdings both in Cuba and overseas, all reported to belong to Castro.”

Yasser Arafat also became rich by revolution. CBS reported in 2009 on the findings of a team of American accounts hired by the Palestinian leader’s own finance ministry.

The accountants “determined that part of the Palestinian leader’s wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion – with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands.”

“Although the money for the portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat.”

Chavez had something other than wealth in common with Arafat: Anti-Semitism.

“The world has wealth for all, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ…have taken over all the wealth of the world,” said Chavez in his 2005 Christmas speech.

Chavez sent Venezuelan security forces to raid a private Jewish school in Caracas in 2004, when a Chavez ally was killed in a car-bombing. Agents leveled submachineguns at students, claiming to look for weapons.

While Chavez used his power to make himself fabulously rich, he turned to divine help to save try to save his skin.

Chavez had undergone three surgeries in less than a year and two sessions of radiation treatments before a pre-Easter Mass last year, when he said, “Give me your crown, Jesus. Give me your cross, your thorns so that I may bleed. But give me life, because I have more to do for this country and these people. Do not take me yet.”

A few weeks later, he said, “It’s like a pact with Christ, who didn’t die, he rose again. He certainly will intervene to make this treatment I am rigorously following a supreme success… and so I can continue redoubling my effort looking toward the future.”

You didn’t have to read far between the lines to see the establishment media’s admiration for Chavez.

The New York Times says Chavez used Venezuela’s oil “as a tool for his Socialist-inspired change …. He was a dreamer with a common touch and enormous ambition. He maintained an almost visceral connection with the poor …. He was not a stock figure.”

Bloomberg TV’s obituary gushed, “He rode a wave of revolution into power, and over 14 years would transform his country’s place on the world stage …. It was oil revenues that allowed Chavez to pour money into food and education programs in Venezuela.”

The Atlantic wrote, “Passionate and charismatic, Chávez slipped comfortably into the role of romantic Latin American revolutionary, championing the poor against an unfeeling local oligarchy and its imperial paymasters….Today millions of Venezuelans will weep tears of genuine anguish at his passing.”

The Associated Press said, “President Hugo Chavez was a fighter.”

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post called Chavez, “quick,” “popular,” and funny.

Larry King described the dictator as “effusive,” “huggable,” and “larger than life.”

Foreign Policy magazine said he was “another heroic martyr in the vein of Guevara or Chile’s Salvador Allende.”

ABC News and Univision said that Chavez “was revered by Venezuela’s poor, who considered him one of their own” and spoke of his attempt “to fight poverty and high inflation” while alienating “Venezuela’s business elite.”

CBS News said, “Chavez’s early policies could be described as moderate, capitalist and center-left.”

Some Democrats took much the same approach.

Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., seemed to suggest that Chavez was saintly. Serrano tweeted Chavez “was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.

Former President Jimmy Carter mourned Chavez’s “commitment to improving the lives of his fellow countrymen,” saying he would “be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communications skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment.”

The official White House statement on his death focuses on Venezuela, not Chavez.

“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

The statement certainly doesn’t mention President Obama’s warm handshake with Chavez in Trinidad, in 2009.

Despite Obama’s wide smile and touching Chavez on the shoulder, the White House said Obama was only being courteous.

“It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States,” Obama said.

By then, Chavez had a long history of anti-American statements.

In 2005, Chavez said the U.S. government under President George W. Bush was the “most savage, cruel and murderous empire that has existed in the history of the world.”

In 2006 he said, “Capitalism will lead to the destruction of humanity … (and America) is the devil that represents capitalism.”

Obama was criticized by Republicans for the Chavez handshake.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “You have to be careful who you are seen joking around with. It was irresponsible of the president to be seen joking around with the president [Chavez].”

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama’s interaction with Chavez sent the wrong message.

“What I find distressing is that the administration opposes opening up oil exploration,” he said. “But yet Obama has bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia and now reached out to Chavez,” who has been conducting a “a vicious anti-American campaign.”