President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has offered another glimpse into his dreams of filial succession for Belarus, this time at a meeting with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
Foreign and domestic audiences are long-accustomed to seeing Lukashenka's 7-year-old son, Mykalay, beside him at official events (including the four-term president's frequent trips to the ballot box in deeply flawed elections).
Public claims to the Belarusian presidency on behalf of Kolya, as he's known, are less common.
Still, there it was, according to Interfax and RFE/RL's Belarus Service, who quoted Lukashenka on his arrival in Caracas on June 26:
"You're correct in pointing out that my kid is here alongside us. This shows that we have seriously and lastingly established the foundation for our cooperation, and that in 20 to 25 years there will be someone to take over the reins of this cooperation."
Minsk has particularly sought to kindle the economic relationship with Venezuela since around 2006, coincidentally when the Belarusian economy began to slacken. The tack has borne fruit, with mutual trade ballooning in the five years to 2011 to $1.3 billion, according to official figures.
But the real or perceived dividends for these two men is on the international stage, where they are vocal opponents of U.S. power and influence.
Here's how the Belarusian Foreign Ministry puts it:
An important factor to achieve convergence of positions of Belarus and Latin American countries on the international stage is a perceived need for a multipolar world. Belarus and most Latin American countries have similar positions regarding the place and role of the UN, as well as principles of its reform. In these circumstances, the relations between Belarus with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are dynamically expanding; constantly maintained is the process of forging and strengthening a political dialogue with the region’s major players.
Belarus insists that the two countries' "strategic partnership...is gaining momentum."
Still, his decision to talk about hereditary leadership of his country in Caracas is notable for its temerity.
After all, Chavez is facing a reelection battle in October that could actually test his stranglehold on Venezuelan institutions. Witness rival Henrique Capriles' call this week for a stop to Chavez's "cadenas," the rambling presidential soliloquies that television and radio networks in Venezuela are forced to broadcast.
Moreover, Venezuela's most famous son, Simon Bolivar, showed nearly two centuries ago that the succession issue can prove a dead end there. That's when Bolivar, lionized throughout Latin America, was foiled in negotiations over his Gran Colombia republic in his push for a lifetime presidency and a free hand to pick his own successor.
Suggesting that whether it's 19th-century Latin America or 21st-century Belarus, elections matter.
PHOTO GALLERY: Life With Father -- Lukashenka & His Son Kolya:
-- Andy Heil
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