Then and now, Venezuela and Cuba, 1960-2008
Watching Hugo Chavez orate on Venezuelan television rings old memory bells. "Socialism. Revolution, Patria." Words I heard in 1960-61 in Cuba.
Now, almost half a century later, in Venezuela's 5 million plus capital, I watched the local residents cheering and waving flags, a scene that looked almost identical to what I remembered in Havana when Fidel Castro launched his marathon exercises in exciting rhetoric.
Like his Cuban mentor, Chavez offered examples of how "imperialism" -- his word for the United States -- had violated sovereignty, by backing the unsuccessful 2002 military coup against him and how Washington interfered in the internal affairs of smaller countries.
What a difference the decades make! In the early 1960s, the CIA (using Cuban exiles) assassinated Cuban teachers and militia members, and sabotaged Cuban installations. I remember hearing explosions, shots, and screams from the street.
From May through October 1960, I heard Fidel speak frequently to large crowds. He had become what Lee Lockwood called "Cuba's living newspaper." (Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel, 1967)
Almost fifty years later, Fidel's ideological son attempts to apply some of his mentor's rhetoric towards similar goals: to build a socialist society in a nation where oil has helped produce a capitalist mode of thinking and doing (shopping), a large wealthy class and a much larger mass of poor people.