Comparisons of Fidel and Chávez

Janis Hernandez

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Photo: Estudios Revolución

HAVANA TIMES — Comparisons are never very ethical. They’re distasteful confrontations of facts, periods or persons – unless the differences are markedly extreme and solely address what’s the same or what’s different.

Over the past couple of weeks — with the media full of tributes and reports on the funeral of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — I’ve heard more than one comparison between that Latin American leader and his former counterpart and friend Fidel Castro.

I think these were done with innocent intentions and for varying reasons. For example, some of the opinions I’ve heard (especially those from older people) carried doses of complaining about there not being enough recognition of Fidel’s influence on the thinking and political actions of Chavez, who many consider a disciple of the veteran leader.

Others pointed out that the champion of Bolivarianism [from Simon Bolivar] had greater real opportunities for carrying out major social projects because Venezuela is a country rich in resources and isn’t the victim of an economic blockade. Thus, it was easier when it came to satisfying the needs of the population, especially the most deprived.

They also note that one of them [Chávez] lived in a historical period in which conditions had already been created for people’s political maturity. Likewise, the use of the media at the international level was capable of countering the media campaigns of detractors and opponents – something Fidel didn’t have for many years.

Some stress that without the help of Cuban professionals in the areas of ??education, health care, sports and culture, many of the remarkable results in Venezuelan society wouldn’t have been possible.

Then too, there are those people with misgivings. They look at our Venezuelan sisters and brothers as being somewhat chauvinistic for claiming their ex-president to have been the leading torchbearer of Latin American integration since Bolivar, therefore tarnishing names such as Marti, “Che,” Allende and Fidel.

But in these discussions not all of the opinions were so positive, for considering which of the two had done more or better. They made comparisons in which they praised Chavez for his wisdom in building an inclusive form of socialism, one where religion wasn’t elbowed out by politics.

They accused his mentor of having attacked belief systems for many years, until these were reconsidered a couple decades later.

The differences between the two were also commented upon, noting how democracy in Venezuela is indisputable, with everything done constitutionally and with the approval of the people.

Meanwhile in Cuba, with its “unique” electoral system,” it’s almost useless to discuss democratic access and the issue of permanency in power.

Some praised in Chavez, who didn’t suppress his opposition (at least not openly), while his friend and counselor supposedly weighed in even on executions (also not openly).

With all these feelings, I agree with some and disagree with others. I confess that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make those comparisons. Those different perspectives only caught my attention, and I wanted to share them with the readers.