Well, Chavez had certain parallels to Hitler, it's true. He walked on two legs, he breathed, and Hitler did those things.
Of course Chavez was no Hitler, nor even a Castro, and certainly no Soviet. He was a populist -- a constant campaigner, even a creature of the age of Twitter, people knew he was done for when the streams of Tweets finally went silent -- who built the poor into an electoral base and understood more about charisma than macroeconomics. If he's reminiscent of anyone it's the old populares
politicians of the Roman Republic, but even that comparison is strained; no matter how fast and loose chavismo got with separation of powers, he wasn't in Julius Caesar's league as a tyrant either.
something of a caudillo, but OTOH it's not like his opponents were a field of Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings waiting in the wings. He denounced them as "oligarchs" and was correct, indeed a populist like Chavez is never possible without spectacularly greedy and incompetent aristocrats to set the stage. The fact that Chavez even could
create a sea change in Venezuelan politics by simply spending some of the nation's oil wealth on its poor and offer them some voice and recognition -- a sea change that broadened the country's active political base and will be his permanent legacy -- speaks absolute volumes about what kind of society had preceded him, and what his opponents were championing. (His opponents tried to pretend that offering patronage to the poor was some kind of outrage or dodge, but that of course is pure Romneyism, the voice of a snobbery that irrationally regards patronage of anyone but the already-rich as somehow evil; none of them would have had the slightest complaint if he'd been shovelling oil wealth into their
pockets.)(Here's an interesting before-and-after datablog about Chavez' tenure in Venezuela.
NB that he presided over increases in inflation and crime... but also more than doubled the GDP of his country. Worth factoring in when talking about whether his long-term policies benefited just "him and his.")
In the long run, Lula will probably be a more important figure in Latin American neo-leftism than Chavez. But as someone who left Venezuelan politics more open to mass participation than it had previously been, Chavez is a more attractive figure than American politics is going to be willing to credit for a long time.