Sometimes admiration comes from unlikely places

July 14, 2009

Barack Obama’s American admirers are not the only ones who compare former U.S. President John F. Kennedy to the current U.S. leader. Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vociferous critic of the United States, also invokes the charismatic late president when he talks about Obama, who, like Kennedy 48 years earlier, was a young senator when he was elected to the White House.

Chavez brought up Kennedy again this week, as he railed against Washington over the coup in Honduras, which many observers have called an unwelcome reminder of the ousters of Latin American leftists during the Cold War — waged partly under Kennedy.

Obama must “stop dithering” and prove that he is not supporting the coup, Chavez thundered during “Alo Presidente,” his weekly television show.  “I want to remember President Kennedy,” Chavez said, during the seven-hour broadcast.

“U.S. imperialism killed him, and I hope it does not kill   Obama, because Obama is in the same shirt of 11 rods, a shirt of 11 rods,” Chavez said, using a Spanish idiom referring to a situation too large for someone to handle.

 Chavez has been no fan of recent U.S. leaders. He repeatedly called George W. Bush “the devil.” And he has said he fears Obama has the “stench” of his predecessor, whom he accused of backing a brief coup against him in 2002.

But Kennedy is Chavez’s favorite U.S. president and the fiery ex-paratrooper has reminisced about his childhood admiration for the slain leader, despite his anti-Communism and backing of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, which sought to oust Chavez’s mentor, Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Kennedy was a force for reform in the United States, Chavez says, and praises his Alliance for Progress economic program for Latin America for trying to improve conditions for the poor, even though it was intended as a counter to Communist Cuba’s influence in the region.
Of course, Chavez is hardly the only Latin American leftist who admires the United States’ first Roman Catholic president.

Kennedy is also a favorite of Fidel Castro.

Picture Credit: Chavez riding a tractor during “Alo Presidente” on July 12, 2009 : REUTERS/Maria Cecilia Toro/Miraflores Palace/Handout

Picture Credit: Chavez gives Obama a book on April 18, 2009: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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