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A New Castro?

Policy analysts and pundits have been predicting for some time that the so-called unipolar moment, in which the United States stands unchallenged as the sole superpower, will soon come to an end. The debacle in Iraq has hastened this reckoning and sharpened the anxieties about America’s role in the world — perhaps especially among those who believe that the United States is a benign hegemon and that the real choice is between a Pax Americana and anarchy. But it is the recent conduct of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s firebrand president, that offers the starkest evidence yet of the changed circumstances that American policy makers are starting to confront around the world.

In many ways, Chávez is an unlikely figure to assume the mantle of leadership of this brewing, if slow-burning and incoherent, global revolt. A paratroop officer who instigated a failed coup attempt against the corrupt government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, Chávez would seem to conform more to the Latin American stereotype of the military man turned populist (Juan Perón of Argentina being the prototypical example) than to that of a world revolutionary à la Fidel Castro.

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