> Among the leaders of what Samir Amin calls "National/Populist" regimes
> Lula far outranks Castro, Chávez, or both put together.
Obviously, world class leaders result from an interaction between structure and agency. So, it's a bit of an apples and oranges, impressionistic set of comparisons we are making. But it seems to me that the conditions in which Chávez emerged as a leader, how he confronted his dilemas, wound up giving him more degrees of freedom than Lula had. As a result, he has now the ability (for how long, it may depend on his health) to build with much greater freedom than Lula had. Now, Lula didn't do too bad and he's still around, fulfilling important tasks as a regional leader. Kind of the role that the late Kirchner was handling. So, the jury is out, I guess. But at this point, in spite of his ailment, Chávez is leading the process in South America. At this point, actually, it is through a collective leadership that includes Lula, Dilma, Raúl, Fidel, Correa, Evo, Cristina, Lugo, Pepe, and Humala. Each of them responds to different demands and circumstances, but they understand well and respect one another, and cooperate very flexibly. Chávez's vision of a united South America, a much more concrete, fleshed out notion than Fidel's old Latin America unity vision, is the organizing idea here. (Not that Fidel and Chávez's regional visions need to be pitted against each other, since Chávez calls himself the son of Fidel, something he just did yesterday in his column in the Correo del Orinoco.) By the way, Chávez spent a great deal of his day yesterday pushing through the Unasur project, which includes Colombia. Also, he just announced the nationalization of gold mining in Venezuela. He prepared the move while undergoing his chemotherapy sessions in Havana. The opposition appears to be in disarray and Chávez's illness pushed them further to the margin. We know things fluctuate, sometimes radically, but at this point Chávez is not in the way, but enabling, ushering HUMAN PROGRESS with a steady hand in a region previously divided and victimized.