Thousands of saddened Venezuelans poured into the streets of Caracas crying, hugging each other and shouting slogans in support of President Hugo Chavez after learning of his death. “I feel such big pain I cannot even speak,” said Yamilina Barrios, a 39-year-old office worker, to the Associated Press. “He was the best thing the country had … I adore him. Let´s hope the country calms down and we can continue the tasks he left us.”
Leaders of the continent also showed their sorrow. “We are devastated by the death of the brother Hugo Chavez,” Prensa Latina agency quoted Bolivian president Evo Morales as saying, while he was accompanied by several members of his cabinet. Chavez was “a caring brother, a fellow revolutionary, a Latin American who fought for his country, for the great homeland, as Simon Bolivar did. He gave his whole life for the liberation of the Venezuelan people, the people of Latin America and all anti-imperialist fighters in the world”.
Chavez dedicated his whole life to the cause of the oppressed and poor, the integration and unity of Latin America, the construction of a multipolar world and the fight against imperialism. Hugo Chavez died due to the illness he had, which many suspect was inoculated to him by any of his enemies, starting by the US government.
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He became notorious after a group of army officers and soldiers, led by him, tried to overthrow in 1992 the corrupt and criminal pro-US government of Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a social democratic politician who ordered a brutal and bloody crackdown on demonstrators that were protesting against IMF-austerity measures on February 27, 1989. About 3,000 people were killed by troops in that episode known as “the Caracazo”.
Chavez spent two years in a military prison. After being released, he led a Bolivarian movement that had two main goals: social justice for the impoverished majority of Venezuelans and independence from the US Empire and its financial tools. In 1998, he won his first presidential election and he would never lose one from then on.
The President changed the leadership of the oil national company, PDVSA, whose revenues had benefited only a small national oligarchy and US corporations up to then. At the same time, Chavez funded various social assistance programs for the poor. These programs have improved literacy levels, health care, housing and income levels for Venezuela’s majority.
During Chavez’s years in office, poverty has been cut by half and extreme poverty by 70%. Millions of Venezuelans have had access to health care for the first time, and college enrolment doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality was also considerably reduced. By contrast, the two decades that preceded Chavez, Venezuela was one of the worst economic failures in Latin America, with real income per person actually falling by 14% from 1980-1998.
Chavez was the main promoter of the process for the integration of Latin America. It would lead to the creation of Latin American blocs, such as ALBA, UNASUR and CELAC, which reduced US-dominated OAS to irrelevance. US plans to control Latin American economies through a continental free trade agreement also failed due to the opposition of Venezuela and some other countries.
Following Chavez´s revolution, Latin America has elected in recent years a group of leaders – Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua – who are deeply involved in the fight for social justice in their societies and political independence for their countries and the continent on the whole. Other leaders who followed that trend – Manuel Zelaya in Honduras and Fernando de Lugo in Paraguay – were illegally toppled by US-supported right-wing coups.
In the international field, Chavez was an active promoter of a multipolar world. In order to liberate his country from an imperialist control, Venezuela established solid links with Russia, China, Iran, Syria and other countries. He supported the fight of the Palestinian people against the Zionist occupation.
Due to all these policies, Chavez earned the implacable hatred and hostility of Washington. In April 2002, the CIA backed a military coup to overthrow him. A group of right-wing leaders and generals arrested and imprisoned him and took over power, in a move widely welcomed by the US and some European governments and media. However, he was saved and restored to power two days later by the rapid action of loyal military officers and soldiers and a huge popular uprising.
Even after the failure of the coup, the right-wing sectors, which dominated some private media outlets, especially channels such as Venevision, Univision and Globovision, continued their permanent campaign against Chavez and his government. All kind of dirty games, including a politicized general strike, were put in place in order to overthrow him. However, all these plans failed due to the high political awareness of the Venezuelan people.
For its part, Washington used its agencies, including the CIA, to fund the political opposition and the oligarchy. According to the site venezuelanalysis.com, Capriles and the Venezuelan opposition received 20 million dollars from US organizations, such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy.
Media campaign was also as a weapon of preference against the Venezuelan government. Despite Chavez’s repeated electoral victories, successive US administrations and corporate media presented his rule as illegitimate and dictatorial. The US Embassy in Caracas became a hub of anti-Chavez activities, as it shows the recent expulsion of the US Air Force attaché, Col. David Delmonaco, and his deputy, who allegedly tried to recruit Venezuelan army officers for “destabilizing projects.”
In this context, the statement by US President, Barack Obama, which claims that Washington wants to normalize its relations with Caracas, is hypocritically insincere. Actually, the US is just attempting to look for new mechanisms to recover its control over Venezuela and change its economic, social and foreign policy.
The death of President Chavez will force the country to conduct another presidential election within 30 days. The candidate and new leader of the Bolivarian movement, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, will be the candidate who will confront Henrique Capriles, the right-wing governor of Miranda state, who was comfortably defeated by Chavez in a presidential election held last October.
Although Washington and its Venezuelan allies hope that the death of Chavez may help them put an end to the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and Latin America, there are many reasons to think otherwise. The people of Venezuela are aware of the achievements and progress that it has obtained at this late stage and is not willing to renounce them. On the other hand, the early, and still not clarified death of Chavez, will reinforce his figure, turning it into a symbol of a policy for the oppressed, for the independence and integration of Latin America and for a world free from imperialism.
“Oligarchies are surely celebrating when the peoples that fight for their freedom and dignity and work for equality are suffering. But it does not matter, the only thing that matters is that we are united, we fight for liberation. A lot of strength, a lot of unity. The best tribute to Chavez is unity. Unity to fight, to work for the equality of all peoples of the world,” Morales said.