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Tribute to an extraordinary revolutionary


Summary: Many leaders have done a lot for the good of their people. But deceased Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez walked the extra mile.

Author Biography: Yahya Sseremba is the publisher of The Campus Journal news website.

I rarely mourn the demise of men, be they my kinsmen or otherwise, for death is obviously the inevitable fate of all mortals. Such an inescapable reality should surely preoccupy no one. But the passing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Rafael Chavez last week nearly sent tears rolling down my cheek.

Mr. Chavez inherited a starving population and fed it.  He found children tottering in tattered linens and clothed them. He breathed life into the economy that had been ravaged by imperialist-imposed policies.

In his foreign policy Chavez donated much oil to destitute neighbors and championed regional integration. The late president’s aspiration for the unification of South America went hand in had with his effort to free the continent from the shackles of imperialism. At home and abroad Chavez was a savior.

At home, Chavezi’s 14-year rule saw vast untulized land expropriated and redistributed to the landless poor, empowering them with a reliable means of livelihood. The government organized these penniless peasants into communes in which they lived and worked together, and gave them communal land titles.

They were kept healthy and productive by free medical services, in addition to subsidized food and housing. "He [Chavez] gave me a house. I have every reason to be grateful. It changed my life," a 33-year-old citizen told the British Guardian newspaper.

Chavez waged war on illiteracy by introducing programmes that taught adults how to read and write and provided free high school education to school dropouts. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is thus right when he writes in a New York Times article, “Mr. Chávez’s social campaigns, especially in the areas of public health, housing and education, succeeded in improving the standard of living of tens of millions of Venezuelans.”

The kindness of Chavez spilled over to nearby countries. His half-priced oil exports have propped up the economies of struggling South American states, including Cuba, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Haiti and others. Some of these nations, for instance Cuba and Haiti, have chosen to re-export much of the oil they import from Venezuela, generating for themselves massive revenues in the process. In this needy part of the world such support means a lot.

It means a lot especially to the 11 million people of Cuba, an island impoverished by its communist system and by imperialist sanctions. The nation receives tens of thousands of barrels of subsidized Venezuelan oil daily, helping to light homes, run factories and facilitate other needs. This is what a weeping Cuban student meant when he told Reuters that Chavez "gave us help when we needed it most. He gave us hope."

The late leader also gave hope for the unification of South America. Far from being a divisive character as depicted in sections of the western media, Chavez played a pivotal role in the formation five years ago of the Union of South American Nations, bringing together Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Union, abbreviated as Unasur, seeks to have a common currency, passport and parliament. Following the demise of the president, the Council of Heads of State and Government of Unasur issued a statement in which it acknowledged that the intergovernmental body would never have come into being without the “visionary leadership of President Hugo Chavez”.

The leftist Commandante similarly spearheaded the birth of the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which emerged to offset the dominance of the Washington-dominated Organization of American States.

And to neutralize the influence of the imperialist-controlled Word Bank and International Monetary Fund, Chavez championed the formation of the Bank of the South that would lend money to member states without imposing disastrous conditions.

Such World Bank and IMF conditions, especially the blind privatization of key state enterprises like banks and public transport and the reckless reduction of public expenditure on basic services such as higher education, have hit the poor so hard. In Venezuela, so-called free market reforms led to riots that prompted a puppet government to slaughter 3000 innocent civilians in 1989. These and similar catastrophes emanating from Western-controlled financial institutions underpin the significance of Chavezi’s contribution to the creation of the Bank of the South.

The deceased’s determination to unite South American nations drew impetus from his abhorrence of U.S. subjugation. Chavez knew very well that the South would never attain true independence without acting in concert. He forged alliances with other equally oppressed peoples of the world, Africans and Muslims inclusive, and squandered no opportunity to denounce the slaughterous imperialist that Washington is.

It is this struggle for the liberation of his people and humanity at large that gave Chavez a diabolical portrait in most of the western media, intelligentsia and political elite. In one of its articles the American Foreign Policy magazine ranted, “Chávez’s legacy, and the damage he left behind, will not be easily undone.”

That statement shows the extent to which propagandists can give up their discerning faculties. Whereas Chavez presided over a country that is not without the defects typical of other developing nations, his reign goes down as a golden age in the history of Venezuela and South America. His eloquent rhetoric may be no more, but his accomplishments are too solid to fade away, as former Brazilian President Lula da Silva once again testifies:

If a public figure dies without leaving ideas, his legacy and his spirit come to an end as well. This was not the case for Mr. Chávez, a strong, dynamic and unforgettable figure whose ideas will be discussed for decades in universities, labor unions, political parties and anyplace where people are concerned with social justice, the alleviation of misery and the fairer distribution of power among the peoples of the world. Perhaps his ideas will come to inspire young people in the future, much as the life of Simón Bolívar, the great liberator of Latin America, inspired Mr. Chávez himself.