Leftist leaders fondly remember Hugo Chavez one year after his death

Hugo Chávez died one year ago today and the firebrand leader's legacy -- "21st Century Socialism" as he called it -- is now driving Venezuela toward basket-case status. Widespread protests by college students over declining living standards, corruption, and out-of-control crime have roiled Venezuela since last month. Hundreds of people have been injured and at least 18 killed, most victims of Venezuela's repressive security forces.

Yet today, even as those often bloody protests continue, Chávez's hand-picked successor Nicholas Maduro plans to lead extravagant  ceremonies to celebrate the memory of Hugo Chávez. The former Army paratrooper and coup leader died on March 5th, one year ago, after 14 years in office. In Venezuela, local media outlets report that two of Latin America’s high-profile leftist leaders will attend the ceremonies -- Bolivian leader Evo Morales and Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega.

There will be a military parade and civic ceremonies to honor Chávez, who nationalized large swaths of Venezuela's economy, traded in anti-Americanism, and brought in many Cuban advisers to remake Venezuela along Stalinist Cuban lines. Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver and union leader, has doubled down on "El Comandante's” authoritarianism, populism, and statism that included draconian currency exchange and price controls. Predictably, oil-rich Venezuela has started to look more and more like Cuba, suffering shortages of basic goods such as toilet paper and milk. It's also become one of the world's most violent countries, with soaring numbers of murders, kidnappings, and robberies.

Capping off the day, Venezuelans will be treated to Hollywood director Oliver Stone's pro-Chávez documentary, "Mi Amigo Hugo." The 50-minute documentary will be aired on Venezuela's government-funded Telesur news network.

No word yet on whether the Castro brothers and useful idiot Stone will be attending the ceremonies. But if they dislike the smell of tear gas, perhaps it would be advisable to stay away.