Just when you thought the clown who rules Venezuela couldn't be any more bizarre or say anything more absurd, out comes President Hugo Chavez with yet another amazingly preposterous statement.
It happens at least once a week. He is the shock jock of Latin American politics. But unlike American radio shock jocks, most of whom say stupid things without consequences, this radio flamethrower happens to be the leader of 27 million people in Venezuela and many other millions of anti-American leftists throughout Latin America.
When he says he wants to develop nuclear energy, or when he threatens a neighboring country with war, or when he admits that he wants to lead a revolution against the U.S. "empire," we should take him seriously.
His latest diatribe, on his weekly " Alo, Presidente " ("Hello, President") radio and TV show, was broadcast from Cuba, where he announced that Cuba and Venezuela are one single country marching toward a confederation of Bolivarian republics — and a "regional power."
The Venezuelan opposition has long complained that a huge number of Cuban government emissaries already are running the Venezuelan government.
With Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as his guest, Chavez confirmed it. "Deep down, we are one single government, one single country," Chavez said.
Although Cuba obviously welcomes Venezuela's economic aid, many in the Castro government who value their country's independence must have been shocked by Chavez's marriage proposal.
"Fidel, let's tell everybody we are going to turn this aggregation of countries — the Bolivarian Alternatives for the Peoples of the Americas — and beyond that, into a confederation of republics. We are going to turn the union of our peoples into a regional power."
It was clearly an effort to publicly commit the ailing Cuban dictator to cede his power to Chavez after he dies. But although Castro did not take the bait, Chavez has reasons to feel he may someday become the absolute ruler of Latin America.
Together with other leftist Latin American leaders who have been propped up with Venezuela's oil wealth, Castro and Chavez have formed a union of anti-American nations that includes Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
Three weeks ago, after Venezuela and Bolivia received Iranian president and terrorism sponsor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this column called them "The Latin American Axis of Evil." And last week, jokingly, Castro confirmed it. "We are the axis of evil," Castro said, as if turning it into a joke made it untrue.
Chavez was in Santa Clara, Cuba, and Castro was in Havana, but their telephone dialogue was heard throughout the Caribbean island and Venezuela.
Their conversation was meant to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, whom they see as a revolutionary icon, while others regard him as a bloody murderer. Guevara ran Castro's firing squad after the guerrillas took power in Cuba in 1959.
It was Che Guevara who coined the slogan "one, two, three, many Vietnams" to counter "U.S. imperialism."
Remembering Guevara and referring to the U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Castro said, "The world is full of Vietnams today facing up to a tyrannical power."
But Chavez, broadcasting and shooting off his mouth from Guevara's tomb in Santa Clara, had to take it one step further. Because Guevara was killed in Bolivia while exporting Cuba's guerrilla warfare in 1967, and because his Bolivian counterpart, President Evo Morales, has not been able to ram a new leftist constitution down the throat of his people, Chavez threatened to turn Bolivia into another Vietnam.
With the power of his proposed confederation already going to his head, Chavez warned "the Bolivian oligarchy" that his government would not "fold its arms" if Morales were overthrown or killed. He said Bolivian opposition groups are sabotaging the Constituent Assembly that is trying to draft a new constitution.
"Be careful because you could be faced not only with the Vietnam of the ideas, but also the Vietnam of the machine guns of war," Chavez threatened.
He then told ministers in the Venezuelan and Bolivian governments that "no consensus can be sought with such currents" of dissenters who operate through "tricks and terror."
"What consensus?" Chavez asked. "The consensus of Washington? All they want is hegemony and imposition."
His friends are the world's cruelest dictators and sponsors of terrorism. He is trying to organize a totalitarian bloc of nations that undoubtedly would threaten world peace. And yet he accuses his opponents of "tricks and terror" and "hegemony and imposition."
Can anyone be more hypocritical?
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.