Meet “Venezuelan Che”: Latin America’s Political Problems Personified


EspañolThe ideological and almost religious adoration of the caudillo liberator in Venezuela continues to push the country further away from the road to progress and the common good.

This video by Leo Ramírez gives us a look at the everyday life of a fanatic follower of the late former President Hugo Chávez. He is known in Caracas as the “Venezuelan Che” because of his supposed resemblance to Che Guevara. His crazed fanaticism is, however, not the exception. If you buy into the Chavista rhetoric, it’s the rule.

The video goes beyond the typical news story about the worsening situation in Venezuela. The costumed “Che” and the praise he received from Chávez is a sobering example of how decadent idolization continues to drown the country. This is a country where people still see the solution to their problems in heroic, Messianic figures, who are also simultaneously blameless for the failures of their society.

Sadly, adoring Chavez isn’t any better than adoring any of the other caudillos who have built the Venezuelan state around themselves, beginning with Bolívar. It is the center of our way of life and how we understand politics in Venezuela.

We see it every day in the streets; in the people who thank the government for occasionally providing basic goods at the supermarket; in the man who throws his garbage in the street because “the mayor’s office will take care of it.” Venezuelans see it in the person that cuts them off in traffic and swerves into the emergency lane; the person that blames the police for being crooked, but when he can, bribes them to get out of paying fines.

I am grateful to Leo Ramírez, who profiled this man, because the Venezuelan Che gives us an opportunity to reflect. Most people still believe that a president, government, or an authority of some kind is the only way to change our country. But if everyone followed the law and lived by morals and principles, would we have the Venezuela that we have today? The future of the country lies in the answer to this question.

I don’t blame Chávez or Nicolás Maduro for the Venezuela we have today. I blame the Venezuelans who give their leaders godlike status and expect them to bring about the redemption of structural problems like corruption, greed, and poverty in Venezuela. They do not realize that they will also need to change themselves.

Humberto López (the Veneuzuelan Che) confirms this strange detachment that Venezuelans appear to have with their own society; the transference of their own responsibilities to the hands of men blinded by power.

“What Chávez did has turned into what Christ did. Chávez was Jesus of Nazareth,” praised “Che.” What López does not realize is that Venezuela will not be saved by God, Christ, and certainly not Chávez, from the chaos in which is submerged. Until its citizens decide to act like the country belongs to them, and less like it belongs to the state, nothing will change.

Furthermore, what Che’s imitator also completely ignores is that Christ’s revolution was a revolution of independence, individual liberty, and the right to determine one’s own relationship with God and others. It came without any attachment to a church, priesthood, or any authority whatsoever. It was about love between equals, regardless of station in life or beliefs.

Of course, Chávez did not preach anything close to these ideas. He sowed hatred against those who thought differently — completely the opposite of what Christ did. Like a Roman emperor, he imposed strict rules under the maxim that the state knows best, all while condemning dissidents and further limiting free choice and liberty.

One can only hope Chávez “took his legacy with him,” as López claims in Ramírez’s film. While the current political landscape in Venezuela is not very encouraging, perhaps we can at least begin a badly needed process of self-reflection as a country.

Translated by Laura Weiss.

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