For just as many reasons readers found to sneer at Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who died Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer, others found reasons to praise the late strongman. While several readers slammed Chavez for behaving like a dictator and encouraging a paranoid dislike of the United States in his country and elsewhere, more expressed admiration for the late president's focus on lifting his people out of poverty and illiteracy and standing up to U.S. domination in Latin America.
Here is a selection of those letters.
Keith Pittell of Los Angeles says Chavez doesn't deserve the outpouring of grief he's receiving from leaders around the world:
"The grief of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.), Jimmy Carter and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) over the demise of Hugo Chavez is a bit misplaced, don't you think? Hopefully they're just paying lip service to political correctness and don't really mourn his death. Hopefully that's the case. Hopefully they're not suffering from Munchausen's syndrome.
"In any event, the United States outlived another world tyrant who thought he could thwart us. We're still standing."TIMELINE: The life of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez
"Indeed, it's a sad time in Venezuela, as Chavez lost his battle with cancer this week. But Vice President Nicolas Maduro's implication that Chavez was sickened with cancer by his enemies in the U.S. is simply absurd.
"Of course, Maduro knows that his outrageous accusation is nothing but a lie. No doubt, his intention is to poison the minds of those gullible enough to believe such nonsense. In any case, it's really too bad that Madura chooses to push the U.S. away with this rhetoric instead of allowing the U.S. to embrace Venezuela in its people's grief. Indeed, it's a sad situation."
Many of our readers had nice things to say about Chavez, primarily because of his opposition to U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.
Susan Boyd Joyce of Granada Hills wrote:
"Buried in The Times' obituary is the real reason Chavez was a hero: He stood up to the 'Washington Consensus,' an agreement between the political and business elite that American 'free trade' policies are the key to success. Ask Jamaicans, Colombians, Mexicans or even American victims of outsourcing how folks are faring since the institution of the North American Free Trade Agreement and 'shock therapies.'
"Chavez virtually wiped out illiteracy in his country and spoke for millions who had no voice. He alerted his neighbors to the dangers of economic takeover disguised as austerity. As Americans suffer under our own growing economic inequality, we need to wake up to the widespread harm our assumption of 'consensus' is doing -- to our own citizens and to the world."
Richard Robinson of Big Bear City strikes a similar populist note:
"I, for one, was saddened by Chavez's death. Why is is that any foreign leader who sympathizes with the poor is excoriated by most of our media and by our government? I guess our 'Christian values' don't apply to the poor abroad, and for that matter, to the poor at home."