Paul  Kengor

There’s an old joke from the Cold War. It went like this: Hardline East German communist Walter Ulbricht (who erected the Berlin Wall) died and went to hell. There, the devil gave him a choice between the socialist sector and the capitalist sector. Devoted to the end, Ulbricht stuck to the faith, saying: “I’ll go to the socialist sector.” “Good choice,” averred the devil. “Over in the capitalist sector, they’re getting the full hellfire treatment. But in the socialist sector, they’ve run out of coal.”

Say what you want of Hugo Chavez, of his tactics, of his beliefs, and (as many are doing) of perhaps where he might be right now, but this much is certain: he stuck to the faith.

Many of us were downright amazed when Chavez, in his late 50s and desperately ill from cancer, opted to go to Cuba for treatment. It was a surefire death sentence. Only the most hopelessly devoted communist would be so naïve. Loaded with vast wealth he stole from his people, Chavez effectively chose acupuncture over the 21st-century healthcare widely available anywhere in the West.

And yet, the Venezuelan dictator clung to his religion. He went to Havana.