Okay, so the Bush tour of Latin America was a bit rockier than would have been preferred, what with the sometimes violent protests in various countries and all. Nor did it help that Venezuelan oil strongman Hugo Chavez made his own simultaneous Latin American tour, the express purpose of which was to denounce Bush and his tour. And along the way Chavez dazzled his hosts with sage wisdom like the following:

“Those who want to go directly to hell, they can follow capitalism. And those of us who want to build heaven here on earth, we will follow socialism.”

Apparently, nobody in Mexico, anyway, is taking him seriously because they’re all flocking to the U.S., not the soon-to-be Edenesque Venezuela. But sure, go ahead and follow Chavez if you like. To hear him tell it, he’s the genius that all humanity has been waiting for to come along and finally set up a functioning and sustainable socialist utopia that won’t devolve into the usual authoritarianism, squalor and misery. Chavez’s idol, Castro, almost pulled it off in Cuba, but just one tiny little ingredient was lacking: oil.

That’s right. It’s pretty hard for those utopian dreams to come to fruition without oodles of something that brings in cash and as everyone knows, Venezuela has oil out the ying-yang. What everyone probably does not know is that Chavez was recently given sweeping powers by the country’s legislators and now has a free hand to bring the oil industry under state control. Everyone who thinks he will use the money to turn Venezuela into a paradise on earth rather than becoming one of the world’s richest men, raise your hands.

It just makes you shake your head in disgust and ask if the day is ever going to come when Chavez-like charlatans can no longer bewitch adoring, brainwashed crowds with their Marxist nonsense. For now, it still sells, particularly in poverty-ridden Latin American backwaters like Bolivia where Chavez just made a big show of giving millions in aid and pledged more than a billion to come.

They say you can judge a man by the friends he keeps. Here’s some of Chavez’s best buds: Castro, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il. It’s a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary crazed dictators who bring nothing but misery to the realms they lord over. Looking back a bit, in 2000 Chavez became the first Western leader since the first Gulf War to pay a state visit to Saddam Hussein. He was also one of the few heads of state in the world to denounce the U.S.-led overthrow of Afghanistan after 9/11. If the Taliban was still in power, he’d no doubt be cozying up with their numero uno head-case, as well.

For now, Chavez will continue to strut around the world stage like a banty rooster, stirring up trouble for the Norte Americanos and making grand promises of prosperity for his region. But who in his wildest dreams believes that Venezuela will be anything other than the chaotic mess that it currently is after Chavez is gone?

“Heaven here on earth?” Best save those dreams for the next life — and don’t look for Chavez to be among the resurrected.

Greg Strange provides conservative commentary with plenty of acerbic wit on the people, politics, events and absurdities of our time. See more at his website: http://www.greg-strange.com/

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