Some have taken me to task for being too eager to announce Hugo Chavez' membership in the Junior Dictators Club. After all, he's just trying to help the people of Venezuela and if he's taken away free speech, judicial independence, rendered the legislature meaningless, shut down or intimidated the press and turned the schools into indoctrination centers, it's all been done with the best intentions. He may have complete autocratic power, a growing military and designs on his neighbors, but at least he hasn't tried to raise himself up like a larger than life figure and create a cult of personality. That's one of the things which really set dictators like Mussolini, Hitler, Lennin and Mao apart from more reasonable autocrats.
Oh wait, I spoke too soon. Apparently Chavez' cult of personality is well developed and even extends beyond the borders of Venezuela. We've seen some of his posturing and demagoguery here in the US when he's addressed the UN and made special deals to provide cheap heating oil to the poor of the northeastern states to demonstrate his largesse. He's a man of big gestures and big words and like Lenin and Stalin and Hitler before him he's not averse to appearing in the occasional really large poster with a flashy uniform and a raised fist.
In a practice unpleasantly reminiscent of what I saw way too much of when I lived in Soviet Russia, Chavez has become disturbingly fond of decorating the walls and roadsides of Venezuela with his giant inflated head, often accompanied by nationalistic slogans. He certainly already has his fanatical followers around the world in whose eyes he can do no wrong, and self-promotion like this is designed to instill that same sort of fanaticism in his country's population. The goal is to make the people look to him as father, mother and symbol of nationalism, and come to believe that only through his largesse will they be safe and provided for.