It sure as hell seems like it, reading this article. But I am not gonna say anything. I will just post snapshots and you guys make up your own minds:
"'Gladiator' — What a movie! I saw it three times," the president tells an Associated Press reporter traveling with him in a Toyota 4Runner,
along with his daughter and a state governor. "It's confronting the
empire, and confronting evil. … And you end up relating to that
The parallel is unstated but clear. To Chavez, the United States is
the empire, and he is the protagonist waging an epic struggle to bring
justice to the oppressed of Venezuela and the world.
Underneath the fiery persona is a man who both firmly believes in his
vision and is shrewd enough to know how to sell it. Chavez sees the
world in black and white and casts himself as crusader, a role that is
at once genuine and expedient. He truly empathizes with the common
people of Venezuela, but it is also vital for him to hear their cheers,
be their hero and feel the power.
To understand Chavez, it helps to see these plains, spreading lush
and green in the rainy season, all the way from the Venezuelan Andes in
the west to the Orinoco River in the east. This is the land where
Chavez grew up poor in the town of Sabaneta and later spent three
formative years in Apure. It's a personal history he draws on often in
"A man from the plains, from these great open spaces… tends to be
a nomad, tends not to see barriers. You don't see barriers from
childhood on. What you see is the horizon," says Chavez, whose first
question to a foreigner is often, "Where are you from?"
The stereotype in Venezuela
is that people from the plains, or "llaneros," tend to be talkative,
boisterous cowboy types with a rich tradition of folklore. Chavez fits
"I have deep roots here," he says. "When I die I want them to bury
me here in this savanna, anywhere, because you feel like a part of it."
He says it was the injustice he saw here — of "impoverished people
living atop a sea of oil" — that drove him in the 1980s to lead a
secret dissident group. As he drives past stands where poor people
still sell pineapples and cantaloupes today, he reflects, "We're in the
process of freeing the slaves. It's still slavery, disguised." He has
expressed the idea so often that it sounds almost rehearsed, yet still
"Chavez is an intelligent man, a man who dominates that game of the
real elements of power and has the capacity to be constantly learning,"
says Bravo, who respects Chavez but disagrees strongly with his policy
of forming joint ventures with multinational oil companies.
As Chavez slowly pulls away from a military checkpoint, passers-by
notice him at the wheel and come running through the rain, shouting
"Presidente!" Leaning out of the window, Chavez clasps hands and plants
kisses on cheeks, heads and hands.
"Hola mi amor," he tells an elderly woman.
"Epa compadre, how's your family?" he exclaims to a man he recognizes from years ago.
People crowd around. They snap photos with cell phones.
They ask the president for help to replace shacks with homes or treat
sick relatives. Chavez promises to help them all, barking out orders to
aides who hurriedly jot down notes.
A woman runs to the window in the rain with tears in her eyes, crying out "I love you!"
Pulling away, Chavez honks, grins and shouts: "I'm off! On we go!"
The interruptions come throughout the road trip, and clearly
revitalize Chavez just like the cup upon cup of sweetened black coffee
that his daughter pours him from a Thermos.
Without contact with his supporters, "I'd be dead," he says.
"Nothing would have any meaning." He warms up to the drama. "I ask
myself quite regularly, 'Do you really love those people?' … 'Is it
true? Does their poverty hurt you? Do the children who are barefoot and
homeless hurt you?' Yes, it hurts me. It can even make me cry."