Hugo Chavez, the legendary Latin American leader revered by millions around the world for his unbreakable position against US hegemonic attitudes and his steadfast support for the disenfranchised, noticeably in his native Venezuela and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, dies at 58. The news came from the voice of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s VP who delivered a major speech this morning, accusing the United States in the premature death of Chavez.
Hugo Chavez presided over his country for more than 14 years. Many say his leftist politics and grandiose style polarized Venezuelans. But his folksy and nationalistic style electrified his supporters, and that means almost two-third of the population. A fighter who staunchly believed in social justice, Chavez was a champion for the modern-day socialist cause. Chavez was never a Marxist, but in the logic of geopolitics, whatever was his ideology, it was almost meaningless.
They still raise the red flag in China, and they even continue to sing the proletarian anthem. Yet, what they’re building is anything but socialism, and Chavez’s biggest enemies are lining up like ducks in a row to flirt with the China’s nouveaux riches. What an irony!
President Hugo Chavez was a nationalist à la Bolivar, who “outsmarted his rivals time and again, defeating a coup attempt, winning re-election three times and using his country’s vast oil wealth to his political advantage,” say Ian James and Frank Bajak from The Associated Press. Chavez’s political trademark stemmed from the ideas of the 19th Century independence leader Simon Bolivar. Chavez even renamed his country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
From the start, Chavez built his political fortune by positioning himself as the heir of Bolivar, who led much of South America to independence. He often spoke beneath a portrait of Bolivar and presented replicas of the liberator’s sword to allies. He built a soaring mausoleum in Caracas to house the remains of “El Libertador.”
A champion of the poor, Chavez used his country’s vast oil wealth to launch social programs that included state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. Poverty declined during Chavez’s presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, but critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy.
Chavez has long replaced Fidel Castro as Washington’s prime antagonist in the Western Hemisphere, especially after Fidel turned over the presidency to his brother Raul in 2006. Like Castro, Chavez vilified U.S.-style capitalism while forming alliances throughout Latin America and with distant powers such as Russia, China and Iran. For that, supporters and critics alike agree that Chavez will enter the pantheon of revolutionary legends ranging from Castro to Argentine-born rebel Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
According to the country election law, a vote must take place within 30 days. Many agree Maduro will easily win reelection, confirming the survival of “Chavismo” over the government of Venezuela. James Ducher, political science professor, who is considered to be a specialist in Chavez, agrees the third world is in mourning. A public funeral is set for Friday.