When Fidel Castro increased the number of Cuba's provinces from 6 to 14, I was surprised that he had not created 1444, because such divisions, which have no real jurisdictional or electoral purpose, are mere manifestations of autocracy as cheap at a dozen as at a ten dozen dozen. The purpose of this "reform" was to show that the maximum leader could make a five-sided square, or, in this case, invert a country's regional affiliations and oldest traditions, rendering a man's territorial moorings meaningless as well as the life that he has built around those familiar landmarks. This is worse, far worse, than moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It is, in fact, moving everything that men are proud of or identify with. When Cuba is free, the six historical provinces will be restored as established in the Constitution of 1940. Those born under the Castroite disposition will then feel dispossessed themselves and will have to reformulate their provincial allegiances. Of course, this is unavoidable: there can be no "Granma Province" in a liberated Cuba; nor, indeed, any monument left standing to the tyrant's caprice. Where Castroism has taken root, it must be uprooted; and where, like a mushroom, it has only left a stain it must wiped clean. The future must be constructed not only with clean hands but on an immaculate canvas.
I said yesterday that Hugo Chávez has never had an original idea, that everything which he has done so far, or will do in the future, shall be in imitation of Castro. The Venezuelan copies his mentor in all things because, over 50 years, there is very little that Castro has not done to destabilize his country and erode its historic foundations. Since he seeks the same things as Castro, and, chiefly, Castro's durability, Chávez would be a fool (which he is not) if he disregarded the Appian road which Castro has laid out for him and all future Latin American despots.
So Chávez has also decided to reconfigure and expand the geographical divisions of his country. No, he has not yet proposed a Fidelia province, although we may be sure he will when Castro finally obliges him by dying. (Castro's shroud is Chávez's mantle and at times it seems, even to Castro, that the disciple is a bit impatient to assume it).
Chávez's improvisation on Castro's idea is no doubt more radical than the inspiration itself. This is another key to understanding Chávez. He is not content merely to copy but wants to leave his own distinctive stamp on every second-hand notion, and there is where he usually trips himself up. The man has no sense of proportion (which is bad because neither does Castro) and blithely turns Castro's enormities into greater enormities.
What has he done, then? Made a hundred provinces? A thousand? No, not quite.
Chávez has proposed creating maritime provinces for Venezuela (yes, dividing the ocean) and according these co-equal status with the country’s more conventional dry provinces, including congressional representation. It is not known whether the congressmen will actually have to live on dinghies to qualify to represent the fishes. It is possible, also, that the fish may just be used for representational purposes; the most densely populated maritime provinces being accorded the largest number of legislators. The question of whether the fishes will be allowed to vote and how their votes would be tabulated, has not yet been considered. It would be highly undemocratic, however, if the piscatory population were excluded from suffrage where they are the majority. It is also possible that new pioneers (humans, that is) may be encouraged to move into these virgin provinces and provided with homesteads, barges perhaps, or other suitable aquatic platforms. Wasn't a bad movie made about this a few years ago? Anyway, this is to date the most radical (read ludicrous) of Chávez's proposals.
And, no, I am not joking. My imagination is a paltry thing compared to the realities of Latin American today.