HRW’s Ken Roth: “Grandin knows nothing about human rights. No one knows human rights like me. I’ll show you human rights. Yesterday I let my Venezuelan maid use my toilet. I even gave her two sheets of my toilet paper.”

On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez

March 5, 2013

A supporter of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez holds up a picture of him during the inauguration of the National Assembly in Caracas January 5, 2013. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

I first met Hugo Chávez in New York City in September 2006, just after his infamous appearance on the floor of the UN General Assembly, where he called George W. Bush the devil. “Yesterday, the devil came here,” he said, “Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.” He then made the sign of the cross, kissed his hand, winked at his audience and looked to the sky. It was vintage Chávez, an outrageous remark leavened with just the right touch of detail (the lingering sulfur!) to make it something more than bombast, cutting through soporific nostrums of diplomatese and drawing fire away from Iran, which was in the cross hairs at that meeting.