In Woody Allen’s film “Bananas,” the revolutionary Latin American tyrant Esposito is portrayed at the moment when power goes to his head. Esposito declares:

From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!

In his Impromptus column this morning, Jay Nordlinger depicts the Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez going the whole Esposito:

He canceled Valentine’s Day–or rather, he postponed it. This year, Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, and he was having his big referendum on Sunday. So he imposed a dry law starting on Friday afternoon–no tippling with the vote coming up. And he postponed Valentine’s Day, declaring that all of the following week would be Valentine’s Day, or a “week of love.”

“We’re going to be in battle,” he said. “After achieving our great victory, the week of love begins.” Yes, “I’m giving you a week in exchange for a day. That’s not bad, is it?”

Jay comments: “This is all harmless and even amusing. Right? Except you remember that a hallmark of strongmen–strongmen of the worst kind–is tampering with the calendar: Year Zero and all that. And if you can cancel, or postpone, Valentine’s Day, you can do a lot more, too, in your dictatorship.”

In “Bananas,” Allen’s alter ego Fielding Mellish responded to Esposito’s declarations by asking: “What’s the Spanish word for straitjacket?” The question seems an equally apt response to Chavez’s woefully unfunny Chavismo.

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