Obama’s Hand

Behind the buttons of their guayabera shirts, the color of their nightgowns, or the trim of their military suits, the most ruthless anti-imperialists of Latin America usually hide a fascination with the empire [United States]. Psychiatrists describe this phenomenon in their patients’ files as an approach-avoidance conflict.

Raúl Castro and Nicolás Maduro are two noteworthy examples of revolutionary combatants who suffer from this condition. They have revealed their hidden appreciation for their nations’ worst adversary through diplomatic backroads and poorly worded public messages.

Last December, after several months of secret conversations in Canada, Castro and Barack Obama announced that they would re-establish diplomatic relationships between their countries. Since then, with various stops and starts, they have moved forward on the slow path to good neighborly relations. Although Cuba had previously pointed rifles towards its northern invader, it now welcomes the United States with open doors and the stars and stripes hanging in every window and balcony.

The anti-imperial discourse has always raised and lowered its tone, but that is no longer important. What has not changed is the repression and harassment of the peaceful opposition: the journalists, the independent bloggers, and Cuba´s civil society.

Nicolás Maduro has accused the United States of behaving in an inhumane manner. He has called the empire an instigator of a fictitious coup in which Felipe Gonzalez and Mario Vargas Llosa also participated. This week, however, the script changed, and Maduro extended a hand to Barack Obama from the Caracas prison where Hugo Chavez spent two years for an attempted coup in 1992.

The Venezuelan leader said that he is ready to meet President Obama “wherever, whenever and however” he wants. “If President Obama wants to shake this hand, the hand of a Venezuelan, of a patriot son of Bolívar, son of Chávez, then I am ready, I am ready to shake his hand, to talk to him looking into his eyes on equal terms,” Maduro said.

However, Maduro will not extend a hand to the political opposition he keeps in prison: the journalists, lawyers and human rights activists that he pursues with death threats every day.

He speaks to the empire because it has money, but the Cubans and Venezuelans want to be free.

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