September 21, 2006

Who's afraid of Hugo Chavez?

Latin America, as the late Venezuelan author Carlos Rangel once wrote, has always had a "love-hate relationship" with the US. The love is expressed in its purest form: imitation. The hate -- more akin to resentment -- boils down to a frustrated desire to get Washington's attention.

Cuba's Fidel Castro pulled it off in the 1960s, torturing the Kennedy brothers with his cigar and his Marxism; and now, in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez is giving us a rerun. At least, this is the refrain of Nikolas Kozloff, a British-educated American who has written Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Emerging Challenge to the United States.

Kozloff apparently believes that Americans have much to fear from Venezuela. His admiring study of Chavez, an up-by-the-bootstraps lieutenant colonel who tried and failed to take power in a coup and subsequently succeeded at the ballot box, is peppered with phrases like "in an alarming warning sign for George Bush," and, "in an ominous development for [US] policy makers."

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