Jesse Jackson Sr. defended the legacy of deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Friday, saying that U.S. presidents owned slaves and democracies “evolve” and “mature” in an interview with CNN.
“What do you say to the Venezuelans, not only in the opposition but those who have fled the country, who considered Hugo Chavez a vile dictator?” Wolf Blitzer asked Jackson.
“Well, you know, democracies mature,” Jackson replied. “Our first 15 presidents owned people. They owned slaves. Democracies mature.”
For more reading on the topic of Chavez, his legacy, and democracy, read Michael Moynihan’s obituary for the Daily Beast:
Hugo Chávez Frias was not a dictator, a semantic point to which his supporters devoted much argument, but he was most assuredly not a democrat. Having burst onto the Venezuelan political scene in 1992 as the leader of a failed military coup, he would later reposition himself as a champion of the ballot box, though one without much concern for the niceties of democracy. In the early days of Chavismo, despite his golpista background, Chavez commanded support from beyond the barrios, but his popularity waned significantly as he consolidated power by shuttering opposition media, rewriting the constitution, and expanding the supreme court. As his rule become more arbitrary and power centralized, thousands fled into exile. He won elections in conditions that, had they taken place in this country, would likely provoke revolution (and, in 2002, actually did in Venezuela). Chavez took his semi-democratic mandate as license to rule undemocratically and rebuild state institutions, now staffed with loyal supporters.
Chávez presided over a political epoch flush with money and lorded over a society riven by fear, deep political divisions, and ultraviolence. Consider the latest crime statistics from Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia, which reckons that 2012 saw an astonishing 21,692 murders in the country—in a population of 29 million. Last year, I accompanied a Venezuelan journalist on his morning rounds at Caracas’s only morgue to count the previous night’s murders. As the number of dead ballooned, the Chávez regime simply stopped releasing murder statistics to the media.