Revisiting Cold War Demagoguery in South America

Revisiting Cold War Demagoguery in South America

The news of Venezuelan tanks and troops massing along the border with Colombia must have old Latin revolutionaries sighing with nostalgia. It is as if the old days of idealistic dreams, when every bearded university student was a would-be Ché Guevara, had never left; as if someone had conjured back those old days filled with utopian possibilities.

You have to hand it to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a character straight out of a García Márquez novel. Chávez would not countenance a hundred years of revolutionary solitude. Instead, the man with the power to stop the clock and wind it back a couple of decades is trying to resurrect the Cold War in his corner of the world, not far from García Márquez's mythical town of Macondo, where for a time every resident started to lose his memory. Chávez would have none of that.

During the days of the Cold War, graffiti dripped like blood off the walls of restive Latin American universities, crying out "Yanki Go Home!" The oddly spelled message was a rhetorical exhortation to social justice more than travel advice for foreign visitors. Attacking Americans was the coda of a Marxist revolution that was supposed to cure Latin American poverty. But it was not to be.

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