The Cold War is supposed to be over, and the murderous ideology of Marxist-Leninist revolution either tempered by capitalism and consumerism in China or Vietnam, or confined behind the grim ramparts of communist throwbacks like Cuba and North Korea. If that’s the case, Bolivian leader Evo Morales must not have gotten the memo.
In a sharp contrast with Bolivia’s history – it was in fact Bolivian troops which executed the violently homicidal Cuban Communist leader Che Guevara in 1967 for attempting an ill-fated repeat of Cuba’s communist revolution – the country’s leftist President Evo Morales has now ordered the Bolivian army to adopt a chant popularized by Guevara and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, “Patria o muerte, venceremos (Fatherland or death, we shall overcome!)”
From Havana, via Caracas, where the Hugo Chavez variant of the chant is “Partia, socialismo, o muerte!” (Fatherland, Socialism, or Death), to La Paz, Bolivia the revolutionary ideals and practices of ‘El Che” are again in vogue. A new generation of populist political leaders is seeking to mobilize the masses with exhortations to martyrdom, self-sacrifice, and hatred of foreign and domestic enemies.
Bringing back the ghost of Guevara is a great way to shore up support for Morales not only in Latin America but throughout the world. Despite many penetrating books revealing Guevara’s dark side, Che remains a chic, radical symbol of violent and disruptive change around the world. While the politically naïve rush to purchase T-shirts and posters that forever freeze the face of youthful rebellion or consider propaganda films such as The Motorcycle Diaries and Che to be the unvarnished truth, the beneficiaries and manipulators of the image squash human rights, stifle public debate with slogans, and arrogate to themselves and the favored few power and control. The Orwellian process of re-writing history, turning individuals into shouting automatons lost in the masses, and extolling the superior qualities of a visionary authoritarian is alive and well in Bolivia.
Michael Orion Powell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/About/Internships-Young-Leaders/The-Heritage-Foundation-Internship-Program