Is Donald Trump the Gringo Hugo Chávez?

Is Donald Trump the Gringo Hugo Chávez?EXPAND
Images via Gage Skidmore and WikiCommons

In terms of their stated underlying political ideologies, Donald Trump and deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez don't have much in common. For starters, Trump loves capitalism. He happens to think he's one of the best capitalists of all time. Chávez had such a disdain for capitalism that he once wondered if perhaps there might have been life on Mars that was wiped out because of capitalism. The two are on opposite ends of that spectrum. 

Yet former Congressman Joe Garica, who hopes to regain his South Miami-Dade seat from Rep. Carlos Curbelo, appeared on Miami-based El Venezolano TV yesterday and strongly implied Trump could be an American version of Chávez. 

"If there's anyone who knows the importance of the vote, it's Venezuelans, who have experienced the tragedy of seeing a demagogue get into power," Garcia said, according to Naked Politics. "They see very clear similarities."

His implication was that regardless of politics, Chávez and Trump are both reckless demagogues. It turns out Garcia is not the first (and likely won't be the last) to draw the comparison. 

Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer made the connection last July. He wrote that Trump's rise reminda him "of the rise of the late Venezuelan populist leader Hugo Chávez." 

For Reuters, Jennifer McCoy, director of the Global Studies Institute at Georgia State University, also examined the similarities. 

"Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump are both outsized personalities seeing themselves as the sole leaders capable of restoring their countries to greatness," she wrote. "They eschew political correctness and routinely speak in an informal, unscripted style, connecting directly with voters who have felt invisible." 

Even some conservatives have noticed the similarities. In National Review (the historically influential conservative journal that has taken a hard stance against Trump), Mona Charen decided to kill two birds with one Hugo-shaped stone by bringing Bernie Sanders into the picture as well. "Looking back at him now, he seems a perfect laboratory mixture of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders," Charen writes of Chávez. 

There are other articles of course, as well as the Twitterati: 

The similarities, mostly in their populist appeal and style, are notable:

Both have a disdain for the media
Humans Rights Watch declared Chávez's Venezuela one of "the region’s worst press freedom offenders." Trump notoriously hates the media and has ominously hinted at laws to regulate it. He has, however, promised he'd never kill a journalist

Yet both also love being in front of the camera
Like Trump, Chávez loved issuing tirades in front of cameras and, as Charen notes, even had his own TV show while president: 

During his presidency, Chávez used television to maintain his magnetic hold on his followers. He was the host, star and main performer on a weekly program called "Alo Presidente." The show was his platform to preach, to rage, to cajole, and, above all, to entertain. During his term, he hired and fired more than 130 cabinet members. It was a bit like "The Apprentice." He would drag a minister onto the program and demand, before a large audience, that the official account for land use, or imports, or lagging social services. The hapless minister would then often be berated by the president and sometimes fired for his poor performance.

Blaming their nation's problems on outside enemies 
Everything that was wrong with Venezuela and the world, according to Chávez, was the fault of the evil American empire. Trump, meanwhile, places a lot of America's troubles on illegal immigrants and Muslims. 

A love of Twitter rants
Chávez was one of the first world leaders to start an unrestrained, personal Twitter account, and, boy, did he love to stir up trouble on it. 

Endorsing questionable products
Chávez once proudly unveiled a $15 cell phone dubbed "Vergatario." That word can loosely translate to "excellent penis." Trump, of course, has his own long history of questionable products. (Trump steaks, anyone?) 

Rich daughters who hang out with celebrities
We all know who Ivanka is at this point, but Chávez's daughter occasionally made headlines by posing with a wad of American cash and Justin Bieber

A tendency toward conspiracy theories
Trump didn't think Barack Obama was born in America. Chávez didn't think the moon landing happened. Both have had odd thoughts about what really happened on 9/11. 

The list could go on, but the men certainly embody a loudmouthed, uncensored populist zeal that strongly resonates with portions of their populations. 

Expect the comparison to continue, especially in these parts. 

Chávez's legacy is now clear. His revolution has led to a country in turmoil that teeters on the edge of becoming a failed state. Trump detractors will use this as a warning for what can happen to a country that falls under the spell of a populist demagogue.

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