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Dec 10 / Jonathan

Sean Penn: Conversations With Chávez and Castro

Sean Penn in The Nation.

Sean Penn: Conversations With Chávez and Castro

Hitchens sits quietly, taking notes throughout the conversation. Chavez recognizes a flicker of skepticism in his eye. “CREES-to-fer, ask me a question. Ask me the hardest question.” They share a smile. Hitchens asks, “What’s the difference between you and Fidel?” Chavez says, “Fidel is a communist. I am not. I am a social democrat. Fidel is a Marxist-Leninist. I am not. Fidel is an atheist. I am not. One day we discussed God and Christ. I told Castro, I am a Christian. I believe in the Social Gospels of Christ. He doesn’t. Just doesn’t. More than once, Castro told me that Venezuela is not Cuba, and we are not in the 1960s.”

“You see,” Chavez says, “Venezuela must have democratic socialism. Castro has been a teacher for me. A master. Not on ideology but on strategy.” Perhaps ironically, John F. Kennedy is Chavez’s favorite US president. “I was a boy,” he says. “Kennedy was the driving force of reform in America.” Surprised by Chavez’s affinity for Kennedy, Hitch chimes in, referring to Kennedy’s counter-Cuba economic plan for Latin America: “The Alliance for Progress was a good thing?” “Yes,” says Chavez. “The Alliance for Progress was a political proposal to improve conditions. It was aimed at lowering the social difference between cultures.”…

via Sam Smith

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