Chavez and Castro are Dead

Sep 02

When considering the last four decades of American politics (speaking broadly of the American continent(s)), two extraordinarily influential figures are Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Ideologically, many of their political inclinations were formed by the very country which they spent much of their lives, and political fortunes, attempting to undermine, namely, the United States of America (USA). Their dislike for what they perceived as United States imperialism shaped not only their personal convictions, but through them it influenced an entire region and generation.

Political

The preeminence of the United States economy over the past century has had an understandably profound influence on the political landscape both domestically and abroad. From this position of leverage, the US economic engine has extended its influence outward to shape many developing and emerging economies. Objectively, it would be difficult to assign a definite positive or negative to the shape the US influence has promoted, but subjectively, it has occasioned both.

In the case of Fidel Castro of Cuba, he adopted a very strong anti-imperialist posture, which drove him at an early age to fight against United States involvement in Cuba. Though this initial attempt was unsuccessful, he spent the following years organizing a group that would overthrow the Cuban government, allow him to assume political and military power and align with the communist Soviet Union. His socialist agenda was a further departure from western influence and encompassed health care, education and the press.

Hugo Chavez experienced similar early setbacks in his initial attempts to seize power, but eventually he succeeded in introducing a new political party referred to as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. His political focus was more decidedly socialist, though he did align himself with the Castro regime in Cuba and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

Social

Socially, one possible motivation for a dislike of US influence may have to do with perceived inequality economically. Poverty, when contrasted with great power and wealth, can have an appearance of unfairness. It’s conceivable that the seemingly disparate economic circumstances of the US and Cuba, or other Central and South American countries, could promote a socialist viewpoint. It must be tempting as a leader to want to solve problems for the people rather than direct them as they build the nation themselves. The former is what appears to have happened as socialist principles displaced free markets in those countries.

Clearly social issues, alongside local economic conditions, played a role in the ideological development of these influential leaders.

Economics

While the US has played a significant world role economically over the time period being discussed, the economies of both Cuba and Venezuela have been muted. Some of that is a result of US sanctions, which can further reinforce perceived injustice and increase determination to oppose what is viewed as an imperialistic tendency. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

The single biggest force against the people raising themselves out of poverty becomes the individual they elected to save them from poverty. Without an economy that can support the vast social programs put in place by these leaders, they find themselves in a position of making promises that remain unfulfilled. They continually point to the US as a the cause.

Culturally

Unfortunately the effect of these social and economic factors is an anti-US culture; A culture in which most social wellbeing is attributed to leaders like Chavez and Castro, and most economic hardship is attributed to outside influences, like the US. Myth and folklore stoke the embers of international discord and keep the people close to their leaders.

Whether the leaders themselves fully believe the rhetoric they used to establish themselves is a curious question. It seems likely that they have deep, heartfelt convictions that their people deserved more than what they were getting. It’s impossible to know exactly who influenced them in their youth and how that helped to shape them as they rose to power. What is clear is that the current generation in those countries have grown up under the unceasing ¬†disparagement of US economic and social policies. It now defines the culture for an entire generation or two that have been raised in an environment saturated by these topics.

Chavez and Castro are dead?

Hugo Chavez passed away earlier this year. Fidel Castro transitioned his power to his brother due to failing health. Despite the departure of these two leaders, there has been little, if any, political movement in those countries. The policies and positions they put in place remain today. What the future holds for those countries has yet to be seen, but as long as their populations continue to perceive the US as imperialistic and opportunistic, and as long as the people remain in a state of poverty with flagging economic conditions, the social and political environment is most likely to maintain the status quo.

As the British are known to say, “A King is dead. Long live the King“.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Ch%C3%A1vez

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