It's not an exact parallel. But Hugo Chavez is fast approaching the status of Fidel Castro among the armies of discontent. One difference, however, is that socialism no longer has the moral standing it had in 1958 and for almost two decades thereafter. In fact, socialism as an answer to the grievances of the poor is widely seen -- even among the disinherited -- as the remedy of buffoons or actual madmen. What idealism do you see in the eyes of those carrying the red banner in Nepal and North Korea? It's actually a joke, a bloody joke.

Now, Venezuela is not North Korea. But its alliances are really bonds with the most reactionary regimes on the planet. Iran, on the one hand. Russia, on the other. But since these two are also partners in arms and politics, there is no "on the one hand" and no "other" either. These are both actually fascist. And, if Chavez bears any similarity to a Latin dictator other Castro it is Juan Peron. Chavez is even having trouble maintaining rudimentary popular assent with the price of oil at $120 and higher.

Anyway, Russia is apparently planning naval maneuvers with Venezuela in the Caribbean during the coming months, as Eli Lake, one of Washington's shrewdest diplomatic correspondents, reported in this morning's New York Sun. It is almost as if Putin and Chavez are conspiring to elect John McCain president.