Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What will Chávez do without Castro?

Posted on Tuesday, 10.14.08

What will Chávez do without Castro?

Hugo Chávez has just declared that Fidel Castro is his father. He says
that Castro phones him constantly and tells him what to do. Chávez obeys
him solicitously, like a good son who admires the wisdom of his
progenitor. ''The Devil knows more not because he's the Devil but
because he's old,'' the Venezuelan president has said through laughter.

Chávez laughs a lot, sings and makes many people laugh. Castro laughs
less, because his dentures are ill-fitting and slippery, and he never
sings because he sings badly and has an intense fear of ridicule. But he
does send letters and ''little notes'' to his disciple to enlighten him.
Chávez receives those lessons and suggestions with great expectation and
talks about them in his weekly reality show, Hello, President!

Recently, Castro explained to Chávez how to build a new international
financial system. While Cuba is an irreparably ruined country (and
that's a fact), Castro insists that he knows a lot about international
finance. Could be. As Forbes magazine keeps reporting, his fortune
abroad is among the world's largest. In Cuba, that money is called ''the
Comandante's accounts,'' and everyone on the island was hoping that he
would use it to palliate the recent catastrophe caused by the two

But Castro didn't think it was a good idea to repatriate his money for
enterprises as lacking in glory as rebuilding the 500,000 houses that
were damaged. That's a vulgarity of ``petty history.''

At this stage in Castro's life, he should consider himself blessed
because Chávez declared himself his disciple, beloved son and apostle of
collectivist socialism, in an era when those archaic beliefs have been
discarded. Castro's personal tragedy is that nobody in Cuba pays any
attention to him anymore. In Cuba, for the past many years, people --
even those closest to him -- have paid him homage and pretended to obey
him, but they don't take him seriously. They applaud him, because they
have no other choice, but with profound indifference. No devotion will
withstand half a century of interminable speeches divorced from the
reality of a country that is falling apart because of the stubborn
stupidity of its ''Maximum Leader,'' as the older people still call him.

In turn, Chávez is a chronic orphan looking for a paternal figure to
whom he can cling, a person who desperately needs an ideological guide
who will organize his chaotic mind.

Twenty years ago, he declared himself the son of Norberto Ceresole, an
Argentine fascist who had scrambled Peronism with Islam and preached the
virtues of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's Green Book. Chávez was very
happy with Ceresole, until the day he repudiated him and adopted Castro
as his father.

The way Chávez forges political alliances is odd. He takes those
relationships to a familial plane that expands like the universe.
Besides his ''brethren'' Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega,
he is beginning to talk about ''my brother'' Vladimir Putin of Russia
and ''my brother'' Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's petty tyrant, who is
intent on wiping Israel off the map.

It is not clear whether, by designating these characters as
''brethren,'' Chávez has placed them under Castro's prolific paternity,
or if they are his brothers on his mother's side, or sired by Simón
Bolívar, another figure whose DNA the Venezuelan president has
resolutely appropriated.

What will happen to Chávez when Castro dies and the little notes and
delirious ideas stop flowing? Will the Venezuelan feel totally neglected
and will he fall into a state of deep melancholy, or will he set out to
adopt another paternal figure who will compensate his profound
insecurity? I don't know.

Latin America does not lend itself to political analysis. Over there,
the cry might well be ``Prozac or death!''

No comments: