Is there a Chavismo?

The Spanish language news broadcasts talk about the passing of Hugo Chavez as the passing of the leader of a “Bolivarian movement” or of “Chavismo.” It remains to be seen whether there is such a thing, and, if so, whether such a thing has any relevance in 2013.

As this writer at Esquire points out, the anti-imperialist rhetoric of Latin America has rung a little hollow in the last little while. It’s not that Bush wasn’t a demon, but it’s that the imperialist system is run by the world now, and it extracts the natural resources of the whole world, and exploits the labor of the whole world. If you’re not among the wealthy, your computer is a plantation and so is your 401k in an abstract sense.

Plus, for all of Chavez’s bluster, he still sold the US oil and, other than enabling and supporting regimes far abroad, never fired a shot at the US. The Latin American left sees itself in a Groundhog Day of Allende and Arbenz, and is always looking over its back for el CIA. Maybe this is far from paranoia. After all, there does not exist a Latin American country that, at some point, has been interfered with by the United States. They probably should be suspicious of us in the same way that many Europeans remain suspicious to this day of the Germans or the Russians.

But that suspicion also must be tempered by reality. Latin America is still part of the developing world, but it is not the hell that much of the rest of the global south is. Every once in a while, liberation movements take hold and get real power in Latin America; Chavez’s own reign is a counter-argument against him, as is that of the incumbent in Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and to some extent, Brazil and Argentina.

If only the Arab Spring had ushered in a Middle East half covered by Bolivarians instead of Islamists!

It’s easy to use the yanqui as a bogeyman. In our country, we love Bogeymen. Right now, our own President is the bogeyman for about a third of our population. Former Bogeymen Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Qaddafi have all been removed from office. The generic “terrorist” is probably the closest thing we have at the moment, and he definitely looks Arab.

But who a yanqui is is changing. It is getting difficult to alienate the US from the rest of the hemisphere in so facile a manner. The US has the second highest population of Spanish-speakers. The Latino is the decisive element of any coalition of power in this country at the moment, and has been in many states for a long time. The Latino vote might even turn Texas blue. Imagine that.

I like that Chavez used his country’s natural resources to help his people. It’s too bad that hasn’t been what’s gone on in Latin America since the start. I hope his successors and his followers do the same. I hope they develop. But I hope they realize that Norte America is or has become more like them that they realize.