Leftwing activists flock to Venezuela to soak up the socialist 'revolution'
Like Havana, Cuba, and Chiapas, Mexico, before it, Caracas draws liberals from around the world who want to experience Hugo Chavez's experiment in socialism.
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Either way, he has given a sense of hope to and unleashed a fervor among millions of Venezuelans. "This is truly a revolution," notes Cira Mijares, a Caracas resident who says she found her voice when she joined a community council, a Chávez initiative to boost the poor.Skip to next paragraph
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It is this same sentiment that foreigners are arriving to steep in. At the International Miranda Center, which sits on the top floor of a hotel suite that houses large numbers of Cubans, who have been in Venezuela providing medical care and baseball training to the poor, visitors from around the world – with government aid – prepare conferences and papers on the merits of the country's social revolution. They talk politics, quote Lenin, and discuss the new cooperatives and councils.
For some, it's been a personal revolution as much as a political one. Julia Mariano Pereira, a Brazilian who works at the center, was employed as a software consultant for an American company in Chile when some friends invited her to Caracas. She had her doubts. Unlike her peers, she harbored no deep political convictions. "I didn't see that I could help much.... People asked me, 'are you Chavista?' I'm not exactly sure."
Still, she reasoned, no better college exists for a budding leftist than Caracas, where the articles of the Constitution hang at subway stations and new laws are sold as paperbacks at newsstands. Now she's reading Marxist theory, Mariategui – she says she didn't even know who the late Peruvian socialist was – and Brazilian philosophers.
Her colleague, Janet Duckworth, an Englishwoman with deep roots in the Socialist Workers Party, was already an old hand at revolution. She spent most of the 1990s in Cuba working as a translator for the state-run newspaper Granma International. She's run into many of her fellow leftists from both Havana and Nicaragua. "Now they are all here, into the Bolivarian revolution," she says.
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Throughout history, the motivations of traveling leftists have remained the same – a mixture of rebellion and romanticism. "They are disgusted with their own society," says sociologist Paul Hollander, whose book, "Political Pilgrims," traces the itinerant movement. "They are idealists." That, he says, often results in a gauzy view of the host government.