David Frum

03.06.13

Where Chavez Learned to Chavez

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Apologies on the Hugo Chavez overload, but one last post about the fallen dictator. Francisco Toro, the author of the excellent blog Caracas Chronicles, writes in the New Republic on the Cuba-Venezuela relationship:

Chávez imported more than just personnel and advice; he imported the Cuban Revolution's eschatology virtually whole. Fidel's vision of revolution as a kind of cosmic morality play pitting unalloyed socialist "good" in an unending death struggle against the ravages of "evil" American imperialism became the guiding principle of Venezuela's revolution.

The use and abuse of anti-imperialist rhetoric as a mechanism for consolidating authoritarian control over society was the most valuable lesson Chávez learned from Fidel. A superheated brand of unthinking anti-Americanism became the all-purpose excuse for any and every authoritarian excess, stigmatizing any form of protests and casting a dark pall over any expression of discontent or dissent. The technique's infinite versatility proved its central attraction: You could blame shadowy gringo infiltrator for neighborhood protests over chronic power shortages just as easily as you could silence whistleblowers of government corruption by casting them as CIA fifth columns.