A Cuban immigrant ran up to me last night, flush with excitement at rumors coming from her Miami relatives that Fidel Castro had died, wanting to know if it was true so she could start partying. A quick check of the wires damped her spirits a bit, as services were reporting Castro had gone into surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding and temporarily relinquished power to his mousy brother Raul.
She and others who risked everything to escape that Communist hellhole won't be the only ones cheering at the eventual — perhaps imminent — passing of the cigar-chain-smoking tyrant.
As much as they've snuggled and back-patted, as much as they act like dysfunctional father and bratty son, the death of the lynchpin of Latin American Communism will probably be the best news Hugo Chavez has gotten since he met his useful anti-Bush idiot dream girl, Cindy Sheehan.
Because as much as the Venezuelan ruler spouts adulation for the Cuban social model and figureheads such as Che Guevara and Castro, they are the old revolution. Cuba is the isolated Communist island that has never squeezed itself out from under the thumb of the West, focusing most of its energy on weathering the U.S. trade embargo. Though Castro survived U.S. attempts on his life, like the CIA's famous exploding seashell, his famous tumble down the stairs in old age was a metaphor for his regime. Cuba became the floating prison from which thousands of influential American immigrant businesspeople, politicians, etc., hailed, and never has ceased to be the island from which citizens risk life and limb to escape. Whereas Castro envisioned that his Communist utopia would set the gold standard for the world, he has been handily upstaged by dissidents and exiles who have, over the decades, become poster children for the fundamental thirst for liberty.
Chavez sees this as old Communism, and he is the future. He is the Bolivarian revolutionary learning from his Communist forefathers' mistakes —save for the fundamentally-flawed-philosophy one — and thinking beyond even his own Venezuela. He is quashing opposition, press and even clergy with such slick spin to successfully delude outsiders into believing that he is a humanitarian who has perfected socialism — not the power-ravenous megalomaniac who claims even Jesus Christ was a socialist revolutionary.
Chavez fancies himself the cult of personality that will eclipse the long-fading allure of Castro; he fantasizes about being the larger-than-life leader who can unite even the most stubborn and independent Latin American countries into the United States of Hugo.