All along, we thought that Hugo Chavez's main inspiration was Fidel Castro. The way he uses the United States to represent evil, the way he punishes dissent with a cruel hand and the casual attitude about seizing private land all screamed Castro. Turns out we were wrong. Chavez's real idol is Al Czervik, the man who told Bushwood Country Club that the two biggest wastes of real estate were cemetaries and golf clubs.
The New York Times is reporting that Chavez's government has moved to close down two golf courses in Venezuela in recent weeks, continuing a trend that has seen several courses seized over the last three years. Plans are in the works to turn the courses into low-income housing, as Chavez has decried the living conditions near courses "just so some little group of the bourgeois and the petit-bourgeois can go and play golf."
Next thing you know they'll be offering free soup to anyone who buys hats!
There's some precedent for Chavez's move, and, surprise surprise, it comes from Cuba. Castro also closed down courses in the 1960's, although his motive may have been less about class struggle and more about his power struggle with Che Guevara. Che, who caddied as a young man in Argentina, beat Fidel in a match in 1962 and the courses started closing shortly thereafter. He also fired a journalist who wrote about the match, which tells you that there was more than just political ideology behind the decision.
All in all, it's hard to get behind the decision just because, at its best, golf is for more than just the ultra-rich. Hasn't Chavez seen "Tin Cup"? If he can do something about banning John Daly's golfing outfits, however, we may see global cooperation on a level we've never seen before.