Thursday, 7 March 2013

Commandante Hugo Chavez has Died





El Presidente Hugo Chavez has died aged 58, after spending nearly two years battling cancer. The news doesn't surprise me anyone who has family or friends suffering from cancer knows how fragile it leaves them. Even if the treatments go well and they're "cured" it doesn't take much to floor them years after.
His death ends fourteen years in power (1999-2013) and was undeniably an important figure in Venezuelan and global affairs. I imagine the next few weeks we'll see a lot of back and forth as admirers and enemies battle it out to try and capture his legacy for their own purposes just like they do for the death of every major political figure regardless of beliefs and deeds. Speaking on purely personal grounds I'll miss the energetic demagogue and his trademark Red Beret. The man was an important influence on my political maturity from angry teen shaking his fist at news bulletins into something approaching a coherent thinker. Though I've definitely moved away from his orbit since then Chavez's actions did at least give me a direction to focus my energies and for that I will always remember him and be grateful. 


I first became aware of the Commandante of Caracas when watching an Irish documentary on BBC Four. That documentary was "The Revolution will not be Televised- Chavez: Inside the Coup"



I still watch the above video now and then. That documentary blew my mind, it clearly showed me that the old levers of control the United States government over Latin America were still there and ready to activate when ever any challenge to that control occurred. And reminded me that the ruling cliques of Latin America were just as ruthless and unethical in assisting the domination of Latin America that they personally profit from.

It also showed me that Chavez unlike the populist Latin leaders of the past had a genuine base of support amongst the poor and working class of Venezuela. The army and the media had moved against Chavez during the coup, in fact all the institutions of power in Venezuelan society had thrown their weight behind the movement to depose Chavez, and his political allies were weak and disorganised(1) with most of their leaders under arrest by the pro coup army and police. Even the country's established trade unions (whose leaders were closely tied to Chavez's political opponents) were against him.

The only power in Venezuela that did come out for Chavez and did face down the riot police and tanks on the streets were the people. The streets of Caracas and the major cities were full of angry citizens from the Barrios demanded his safe return. This groundswell of anger seems to have court the coup plotters completely of guard (understandably so, since they controlled the media completely and had spent months demonizing Chavez) and derailed their attempts to create a smooth transition of power before the rest of the world could react. I've never subscribed to the view that the working class is stupid or easily mislead so the fact that so much of Venezuela's working class mobilised to defend Chavez said a lot to me about his popularity and the sections of society he chose to represent.



"Those who have served the cause of the Revolution have ploughed the Sea" Simon Bolivar


1: The massive United Socialist Party of Venezuela wasn't formed until 2007 long after the coup.

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