The specter of Hugo Chavez walks the sultry plains of South America, where the Chiguire – the world’s biggest rodent – roams; where the haunting Llanero music echoes across empty valleys and up against mountains that have never seen peace.
The specter of communism, Chavez was actually a new arrival; about twenty years too late, he missed the party; not that he didn’t throw one hell of an after-party. We’re celebrating 100 years of the first appearance of that bloodthirsty ghost; a revolution, that one Bolshevik; massacres and takeovers and Tsarist assassinations. ‘Celebrating’, its the wrong word really. How do you celebrate famine, war, totalitarianism – prison camps and bonfires of books and families riven asunder? How do you celebrate the theft of ten generations of minds? And 65 million deaths – seems the only people willing to celebrate all this are the sycophants, the media and the millennials.
Then it was over – not in a mushroom cloud nor another world war, but instead extinguished in exhaustion and bread lines and the whimpering of a political system that was used up and spent, empty brittle and cold. The leaders didn’t fight, Custer’s last stand or Gallipoli, instead wandering off to lick their wounds in academia – hoping to fight another day.
And the dream did abide. A new crowd of utopians, mentored by Gramsci, stood front and center as the politics of ‘no-skin-in-the-game’ took over a managerial world. Of the new crowd, Venezuela was the first (albeit not the latest) to rebel; and consequently the first to fail. The only people surprised are those naïve enough to still believe that somewhere else, sometime else, somehow else the stars might align, the gods might speak, the oceans might recede – and communism might actually work. They who summon the apparition of Chavez, querying the dead dictator as to what went wrong have been instructed by the shade of their new mark – Colombia.
It was always Colombia really, those who don’t know anything about Latin America are surprised by the resilience of the communists there. While we from the frigid north only think about Colombia in images of Escobar and piles of white cocaine, for South American continentals – for Chavez himself when he was alive – it is clear that the prize was never Venezuela. That backwater patio was too insignificant to satiate their thirst for significance. Though Simon Bolivar was from Caracas, the great treasure to be coveted was Bogota, capital of the Vice-royalty of New Granada. The seat of power in Simon Bolivar’s Gran Colombian political project; and the epicenter of Hugo Chavez’s Patria Grande. His plan, as I outlined in my book on the ALBA – figure out how to get the FARC to lay down their weapons, for the days of overthrowing governments by force is over; except perhaps in Africa. No, electoral shenanigans offer sufficient opportunities for the crafty. A peace deal: legitimacy and opportunity, that would be the ticket; a sponge with which to wipe off the blood from a half-century of violence.
Colombia’s democrats of course have no idea what is going on. “We have to give peace a chance,” said a new friend of mine who supported the peace deal. Now, the “Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria” (the ‘Alternative Revolutionary Party’ – gee I wonder what that could be) is a thing and Timoshenko – Latin America’s version of Joseph Kony or Abubakar Shekau or Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi or Pol Pot – is preparing to run for President of the republic. Will he win? Probably not. Might he? Sure. Will a FARC candidate eventually find the right amalgam of greed and envy and resentment to push their way to the Presidency? Of course – and with billions in cocaine money to fund their temper-tantrum, how could they not? (Oh, don’t believe me? Look at El Salvador, and Nicaragua).
The specter of Hugo Chavez must be smiling up from hell. He got lucky, dying as he did before he was forced to witness the implosion of his ‘Bolivarian Revolution’; a collapse that was only a matter of time. Better still, his premature departure allowed him to deflect the blame of communism’s latest failure onto his half-witted successor. Standing beside Fidel and Che as they lavish their undead attentions on their uncompleted project, the jewel in the crown. Bogota. “Oh, Colombia isn’t Venezuela,” my friends assure me, just as Venezuela was not Cuba, and Cuba was not USSR. “Let them stand,” they say, “and we will show them at the polls that communism has no place here.” Famous last words.
Tired as I am of writing about Venezuela, which is unsavable, I’ve decided to focus my energies for a while where there might still be time; cataloging Colombia’s flirtation with disaster. Instead of writing about a suicide, which is sort of morbid, I’m going to write now while the body is still kicking. Will future Bogota witness Caracas’s bonfires of human flesh beside a bread line? I truly hope not – but the advent of the ‘Alternative Revolutionary Party’ sure has made that end more likely.