Deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias was a poor man in 1999, when he assumed the presidency. By the time he died, a few months ago, he seemed to have been a very rich man. In spite of his constant preaching against the wealthy and the use of his favorite mantra: “To be rich is sinful”; in spite of claiming that he donated his modest salary to the poor youth of Venezuela, several estimates of the amount of money he left behind coincide at some $1.8 billion ( the most recent estimate made by Jerry Brewer, Criminal Justice International Associates, Miami, Florida, quoted in publications from the U.K, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia).
Of course, I do not know if this true. But if he died essentially penniless, as he should have, given his highly publicized antagonism of the wealthy, why would his family be feuding over his inheritance? A recent report, http://veusnoticias.com/conflictos-familiares-entre-los-hijos-por-la-herencia-millonaria-de-chavez/ says that the children of Chavez are initiating a legal fight over the assets left by their father. The report says that the older daughter, Maria Gabriela, is denying the other children, Rosa Ines, Rosa Virginia and Hugo Jr. their “share” of the money. Maria Gabriela has also stopped talking to her grandmother, Helena. The mother of a fourth daughter of Chavez born out of wedlock, called Genesis Maria, has come forward to try to share in the inheritance, adding to a conflict that could dwarf the bitterness of the Michael Jackson family feud.
If Hugo Chavez had not been Venezuela’s strongman for 14 years this would be one more scandal in which the descendants of the rich and famous are frequently immersed when they die. But we believe that the Venezuelan nation has the right to know the truth about the financial inheritance this man. Students of corruption know well that lack of transparency in government inevitably leads to corruption. The Chavez presidency lacked all transparency, not only regarding national issues that should have been made known to the population but also about his private life. We only know that his flamboyant style of living contrasted dramatically with his rhetoric. He used $50,000 wrist watches and dressed and traveled as a millionaire, even when making long speeches against the rich. He clearly lived beyond his means. And wealth, like a cough, is difficult to hide.
Assuming that during his 14 years in power he had saved half of his salary he would have amassed no more than some $700,000. This could be the normal amount of money left to his family (after making the required deductions from his medical expenses in Cuba, covered by the nation). Anything above this amount should be classified as illicitly obtained. Certainly $1.8 billion would be the product of a gigantic swindle of national money. The family should not be allowed to access any amounts of money that were not the product of his honest work.
When Hugo Chavez arrived in the presidency he had no money.