Had Hugo Chavez followed the pattern of many Third World leaders and concentrated on siphoning off his nation's wealth for personal gain, he would have attracted little attention or animosity in the West.
Instead, he did virtually the opposite -- redirecting vast sums of national wealth to the swollen ranks of Venezuela's poor, along with free health care and education. No wonder he alienated local elites, who are used to being first in line at the national trough.
Chavez's relentless championing of the downtrodden set a standard increasingly followed in Latin America. It explains his immense popularity with the masses and the widespread grief over his death last week.