There's an amusing video this week of the Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in the midst of a televised attack on--who/what else?--George W. Bush when the lights go out. Chavez is plunged into darkness and, miraculously, ceases talking.

The spectacle reminds me of an incident in Havana in 2002 when I was listening to the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, explain about the wonders of the Cuban Revolution and the horrors of North American capitalism when--yes, the lights went out. As with Chavez, Alarcon was sufficiently nonplussed by the mortifying darkness to stop talking and (impatiently) await the return of electrical power. A fitting metaphor, as it were, for the achievements of the Cuban Revolution, 51 years on.

Whereas Alarcon is cold and vaguely sinister in manner, Chavez is bombastic and buffoonish, probably disturbed. But as history teaches, mental disturbance is not unknown among the world's statesmen, and can be just as lethal as cold calculation. And as metaphors go, the image of Hugo Chavez plunging his unhappy country into further darkness is irresistible.

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