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Color Venezuela's Hugo Chavez red

Out of all the colorful and politically charged campaign slogans that I heard during my coverage of the Venezuelan elections, the one that grabbed me the most was "Roja, rojita," or "red, reddish." Women in the poor neighborhood of San Agustin would repeat it, laughing. They would show me their pinkie, stained with indelible ink after voting. They would point to their red caps or blouses and say, "Roja, rojita."

What I didn't get is if they were simply repeating catchwords coined by the Chavez campaign, or if, in effect, they were declaring themselves communists by conviction.

After the hammer and sickle, perhaps the most identifiable symbol of communism around the world is the color red. I would swear that Chavez owns at least 20 red shirts. Maybe up to 30 red berets. The presidential car is a red Volkswagen Beetle.

Chavez dedicated his victory in the polls to his "comrade Fidel Castro and to the Cuban people." But is Chavez himself a communist? Is Chavez a dictator? The Venezuelan comandante laughs at the mere suggestion of it. "This is the most democratic country in the hemisphere," he often says.

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