The Blog

Blast From the Past

Hugo Chávez veers into anti-Semitism while explaining how to create a workers' paradise.

11:00 PM, Jan 11, 2006 • By AARON MANNES
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THE LANGUAGE AND SENTIMENTS are distressingly familiar. But Chávez appears determined to initiate his Utopian revolution and buoyed by record oil prices, he has the resources to pursue this vision in Venezuela and to export his revolution throughout the region. Within Venezuela he has launched numerous initiatives. Some, such as building new medical facilities throughout the country, seem laudable (although Fidel Castro provides the medical staffs). Other initiatives are eccentric, such as the government's printing and free distribution of 1 million copies of the classic novels Don Quixote and Les Miserables. Some programs expand Chavez's authority, such as the establishment of Bolivarian Circles. These armed citizen militias were ostensibly formed to defend the country against a U.S. invasion, but have been deployed for violent confrontations with anti-Chávez protestors.

Regionally, Chávez funds radical groups and buys allies with cash and subsidized oil. He has sticks to accompany these carrots. Chávez is funding a regional satellite TV network--a Latin Al Jazeera--to broadcast his vision. Chávez also provides safe havens for Latin America's largest terrorist organization, FARC. His rhetoric and interference in other nations' internal affairs have sparked several high-profile spats with other Latin American nations, most recently with Mexico and Peru.

Internationally Chávez is seen as a populist loudmouth and while his anti-Semitism is condemned, much of his rhetoric is ignored as braggadocio. But his forays into anti-Semitism are merely symptoms of a broader, dysfunctional worldview. Chávez appears intent on replaying the most disastrous political projects of the last century.

Aaron Mannes, author of the TerrorBlog and Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations (Rowman & Littlefield-JINSA Press), researches terrorism at the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Maryland. Opinions expressed here are his own.