It may have all started with the bosom buddy relationship with Vladimir Putin, but Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has expanded his friendship franchise to the world’s pariahs, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Omar al-Bashir to Robert Mugabe, and, even posthumously with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Even Lula in Brazil saw it fit to copy Chávez with an Iranian meeting.
If Hugo could track down a phone number for somebody in the Burmese junta, they could probably get a red carpet welcome into the Bolivarian revolution.
Blogging over at our sub-domain Venezuela Report, El Maestro has a comment piece on this trend:
Let’s put aside for now the polarising language promoted by this sort of headline and just think for a moment about the concepts of perception, association and friendship. A very dear friend of mine who by her own admission has a limited attention span for the ins and outs of international diplomacy, once told me that what made her turn the corner on appreciating foreign relations was comparing it to the way gossipy high school girls relate to each other. That is, that amicability between nation states ultimately rests in large part on who is seen hanging out with whom, at what event, and how much they agree on whether or not to befriend that other nation state who always eats lunch alone at the far end of the cafeteria.
In an ideal world, we would all be judged on our personal merits, first and foremost, on substance over style. What we wear, who our friends are, material considerations – none of these things would matter. Ideally. In the real world, for better or for worse, perception matters at least as much as truth does, and nowhere is this more powerfully manifested than in the company that a person keeps. One’s inclination to be friends with a bookish introvert says something quite different than one’s inclination to be friends with a gregarious life-of-the-party type, and one’s accumulation of friends of both types in equal measure implies yet something else entirely.
The La Verdad article lists who Primo Hugo’s most controversial friendships and inspirations are, all in one place. In one place – together, to consider as an aggregate. And the unavoidable impression one is left with here is that if indeed a man is known by the company he keeps, Primo Hugo’s company is…well…I’ll let the list speak for itself: