by Luis Vega
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has modeled himself after past and present revolutionary leaders such as Simon Bolivar and Fidel Castro. His great admiration of the Cuban Revolution and friendly relationship with Fidel Castro has given America the perception that Chavez is the next Castro. The reason why this notion of Chavez being the next Castro is so prevalent is because Venezuela has the fifth largest oil deposit in the world and is the second largest supplier of oil to the United States. Buddy, buddy relations between the two men has concerned the “American Machine” because of the possible spread of communism, “Domino Theory.” Although this idea is preposterous, and the spread of communism is highly unlikely America can’t have another Fidel running around in Latin America especially because of the interest in petroleum in Venezuela and other natural resources the country boasts.
The Next Castro?
Chavez claimed that his revolution is built around that of Cuban Revolution and emulates himself after Fidel Castro. The question is “Will Hugo Chavez be the next Fidel Castro?” No one really knows, but the truth of the matter is that Chavez has only been in office for five years and he is already losing a lot of support from his staunch followers. Now on the other hand Castro has been in office for over forty years but yet he still maintains a large amount of support from people in Cuba, as well as admiration from people all over the world for the struggle that the Cubans have endured by a trade embargo, and have been on the receiving end of harsh American rule.
Due to how popular the United States is right now, attacks against the Cubans have made the United States even more unpopular. Nationalism among Cubans and Cuban Americans has become even more profound. The bottom line is that the genuine charisma of Fidel Castro has enabled him to catapult to the top, while the charisma of Hugo Chavez is manufactured, and seemingly not genuine. This is according to the Max Weber theory of “routinisation of charisma” where the charismatic qualities of one leader are transferred to another up and coming leader trying to instill the same rhetoric and ideologies as his predecessor. Even though the concept is manufactured and not genuine it is still considered charisma.
Many of Hugo Chavez’s ideologies are rooted from that of Castro and Bolivar, and he has proven that he is not able to maintain support on a national level for such a long period of time as Castro has. Some might say that the Cubans have no choice but to follow Castro’s lead but the truth of the matter is that there is always a choice. Castro had a choice to take up arms and overthrow the government, so there is always a choice no matter how far fetched it may seem.
If the people did not believe in Castro and deem him as a godly figure or “savoir” it is more than likely that the Revolutionary government would have been overthrown. An up and coming leader in Latin America is more often than not likely to rise out of disgust of the present government. Chavez is no exception to this rule; his rhetoric is often noted in socialism, and the ideologies of communism. Although Chavez claims that he is not communist his new social programs and land reforms have said otherwise. He says that his government is social democrat, and will not be taking the turn to communism.
One might argue that Chavez is giving everybody the run around especially the United States about the communist theory. Another communist country in Latin America will set off alarms in America. Even though the likelihood of the “Domino theory” playing a role in Latin America is improbable, Venezuela is still the second largest petroleum supplier to the United States, and it under communist rule will probably rule out supplementation to America.
Chavez will never be anything close to what Castro is. The difference between the two is Castro fought for what he believed in, and was either ready to make his dream a reality or die doing so. Castro was organized, determined, and had a tactical plan for fighting the opposition when he organized the 26 th of July Movement. Chavez’s move to replace the government was quite different. In 1992 he and his movement attempted a coup with soldiers who were more loyal to him than to the Venezuelan Army.
Their plan was to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez because of growing animosity at the economic austerity measures. The coup claimed eighteen lives and wounded sixty before Chavez put his arms down and surrendered. Nine months later while Chavez was still in jail his comrades tried to seize power again. He was given one minute on a national television station to announce the fall of the party, and pleading with his comrades to put their arms down. The failed coup laid the foundations for Chavez’s claim to fame.
Now look at things in perspective, while Hugo Chavez’s failed coup is similar to that of the failed coup on Moncada by Fidel Castro. Chavez’s attempt at overthrowing the government gave him hero status amongst the Venezuelan people, Castro’s failed coup gave him a chance to revitalize his soldiers, and declare guerilla warfare for over two years. It wasn’t a failed coup by Castro that earned him hero status among the oppressed Cubans it was constant fight and struggle through the Sierra Maestra that gave him such an appeal to the people. In addition to everything else Castro is charismatic.
Chavez is losing support quick among the Venezuelans, already there has been an unsuccessful coup on him in 2002, and recall referendum to vote him out of office. Even though he has survived both, his popularity rating among is rapidly losing support among the underprivileged lower-class and this is in a time frame of only five years. It doesn’t look like his term as the leader of Venezuela will last nearly as long as Castro’s 45 year reign. Castro, although unpopular among Americans, Cuban exiles in America, and Cubans who say that their human rights are violated under Castro every day of their lives, he still manages to maintain popular support in Cuba from people who see a unified Cuba under all every ethnic groups. People live vicariously through Castro in Latin America and all over the world because of his plight for the Cubans and promotion of nationalism and this is what people where hoping for in Venezuela, and that is not the case at all, because Chavez lacks one thing that Castro has relied on for all his years as leader of Cuba and that is charisma.
Castro’s charisma is genuine and has enabled Castro’s political career to catapult and to be loved and hated by many. While people would like to think that Chavez’s charisma is genuine, it is clearly not, and charisma is not a simple concept to grasp especially when referring to politics. Chavez’s has tried to be charismatic to have the same effects politically as Castro. Chavez’s reign will not last nearly as long as Castro’s because he lacks the appeal that Castro has and therefore the answer to the question is “no” Chavez will never be as charismatic as Castro is!