When Chávez refused to renew the licence for RCTV in 2006 I felt that I had lost a hero. I had printed his face on a T-shirt, which I have not worn since that day. It was not the dictatorial move as depicted in some of the media, but for me the purity of the revolution had been lost. After that, I have felt increasingly alienated from a political movement and a president I had once adored. Now I cringe when I see him describing Robert Mugabe and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as brothers, or comparing Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler.
Last year I went to a conference on Venezuela’s progress after 10 years of revolution, shocked to hear speaker after speaker ignore his treatment of opposition, his expulsion of human rights activists (fittingly, for claiming the country was slipping towards totalitarianism), or his temporary defence of a drug-dealing and murderous Farc.
Even now, however, I cannot completely shake off my fondness for him, nor have I lost the instinct to defend him – once you have invested that much hope in one person it is extraordinarily difficult to let it go. I hate to think that one of the first articles I have written is against el Presidente, agreeing with some neocons whom I despise.