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Death to Fidel and Chávez! Long live Fidel and Chávez!

Throughout present-day Latin America, no two leaders are bestowed with so much fervor, equal parts adoration and animosity, than Fidel Castro in Cuba and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

The socialist, anti-imperialism policies they exhort make them the scourge of the Western world; their totalitarian attempts to prolong their regimes fuel opposition within their own countries.

In truth, the Castro and Chávez regimes are little worse than those of other nations. No one would give higher grades to the government in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua or Haiti. If anyone was living in poverty (or at least part of the 99 percent) and living in Latin America, they would likely rather live in Cuba or Venezuela, than Mexico or Honduras. Well, then again, I suppose it would depend on what that person valued most.

The American value system exalts liberty above all else. Our freedom-loving natures detest socialists and the utopia they describe. Whereas Americans declare, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” socialists interject, “Yes, but with some restrictions.” Within the confines of socialism, you can have life, so long as you don’t threaten the lives of others or the state; you can have liberty, so long as you don’t diminish the liberty of someone else; and you can pursue happiness, so long as your pursuit doesn’t lead you to tip the scales of equality. In the United States, where everyone is guaranteed the right (if not the ability) to obtain power over others, disparity is a defining feature of the state. But in true socialism, which cautions against the individual amassing of power (either through money, property or anything else), disparity is an enemy of the state.

Castro and Chávez, like all leaders, may be judged as both benevolent and evil. The objects of their rule are noble, but the manner in which they rule is corrupt.

Castro, with the stirring words he publishes in Granma, is like an old boyfriend who whispers in our ears the things that initially sparked our amour. But the relationship has gone on for too long, with too many abuses, and the Cuban people, growing tired of his face and his voice, cry out, “If you truly love us, leave us alone!”

Chávez hasn’t been in power nearly as long as his Cuban comrade; Castro and his brother Raúl have headed the Cuban government since 1959, giving them 40 years on Chávez. Yet, his refusal to relinquish the reins of power has already drawn harsh criticism by opponents who paint the red-shirted presidente as “the young Fidel” (in the terrible sense). Now that a viable contender for Miraflores has emerged in Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, a moderate socialist, Chávez would be wise to allow a fair presidential race and instruct his underlings to respect the results of this fall’s election.

Fidel and Chávez will forever remain venerated figures who defended the poor against monied interests. But if they are true students of socialism, and if they truly love their people, they’ll pass power on to the new generation of leaders.


About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007,, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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