The Death of Hugo Chavez

The Death of Hugo Chavez

Hugo-Chavez-speaks-at-his-001The announcement of the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez provides an opportunity for us to look back on the most important moments in his extraordinary life. In February 1992, he and a group of his comrades from the Venezuelan army launched a coup against then President Carlos Andres Perez. The coup attempt failed, but the incident that would make Chavez a national figure was still to come. Facing the prospect of defeat, Chavez delivered a national TV address to his comrades-in-arms. He told them to lay down their weapons, not to shed anymore blood. He told them that he took responsibility for the defeat and that, por ahora, the struggle was over. This por ahora (for now) shook the Venezuelan people. Chavez and his confederates were carted off to jail. But his words suggested their time would come, so Venezuelans – exhausted by decades of elite political corruption – waited.

Lieutenant Colonel Chavez returned to the scene after a spell in jail. In 1994 he launched a country-wide campaign that would sweep his Bolivarian movement to a momentous victory in the presidential elections four years later. The old political system that he failed to topple by force collapsed under the sheer weight of his personality. He won the hearts of millions of dispossessed Venezuelans. A dark-skinned Colonel from a working class background, he was the opposite of the mestizo elite which had dominated Venezuela since Simon Bolivar won its independence in the 19th Century. To the Venezuelans masses, excluded from the political system and denied the wealth of the country, Chavez was the sign of their own awakening. They found a new dignity through this remarkable figure.

What now? Threatening noises from the right and from the displaced colonial powers are to be expected: they will call for a ‘transition’, for a ‘moving beyond’ the ‘divisions’ of the Chavez era. But the oligarchy knows Chavez died undefeated. Despite their attacks, coups, plots and lies they couldn’t beat him. Their crowing tonight and in the days ahead can only amount to a hollow victory.

The pain of his supporters – the poor and the working class – will be huge. Socialists – and all those who defend the right of nations to determine their own fate – will be hurting. With Chavez’s death, they are lost, but only por ahora – only for the moment.

Comments (9)

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  1. Stuart McLean says:

    Thank you for acknowledging this fantastic man who has done so much for so many. There are few brave enough to stand up for the impoverished against the neoliberals and did not use rhetoric but Paid off the parasites from the IMF WTO to enable surrounding countries to break free from the cycle of debt and despair.

  2. should we be worried about usa dirty tricks coming into play with the death of this man, surely this oil rich country is on americas hit list in some way or another , or am i being too dramatic and too much of a conspiracy theorist

  3. George Gunn says:

    The smell of sulphur will now begin to pervade across Venezuela as the elite and their Miami backers plan how to roll back the achievements of Chavez and his government. He was far from perfect but he was a brave man because the rich and powerful will go to any lengths to to wrestle the wealth of the nation from the people. I hope that the vice president and the rest of the Bolivaristas keep their nerve. Small, independent countries have to stand up to bigger aggressive neighbours or there will be no peace or justice or freedom in the world. We in Scotland should send fraternal greetings to the people of Venezuela. Their fight is our fight.

    1. George, I think you’re right. The situation is precarious. The good thing is that the Right are in a mess and the Chavistas will likely be extremely motivated. So I think they will win the next election. The question is whether the process can retain its dynamism with the force of Chavez’s personality.

    2. thelatemrb says:

      I don’t doubt the ability of the elites to break back, but Chavez helped change the region, in his political shadow economies like Brazil grew great and now there are countries in the region with independent clout. It’s not like the old days. Morales rise in Bolivia came in the wake of Chavez in Venezuela. Hopefully there will be enough space to allow Venezuela to decide her own path (fingers crossed the spooks can’t turn the clocks back). Their fight is indeed our fight. I’d love the Scottish Government to say something in solidarity, maybe a vain hope, but i’d like it.

  4. britians foriegn minister has paid tribute to the man , reminds me of the john lennon song “first you must learn to smile as you kill if you wanna be like the folks on the hill ” so my conspiracy theory isnt that far off then

  5. Ray Bell says:

    He was a mixed bag, but the fact is that he genuinely was under attack from los Yanquis. I’m sure some will claim that they gave him cancer.

    My own line is that he was a flawed reformer, on the one hand bringing improvement to the poor and on the other giving in to certain South American political pecadilloes.

    A curious assessment here –

  6. bellacaledonia says:

    Here’s the Editorial in yesterday’s Independent.–an-era-of-grand-political-illusion-comes-to-an-end-8522850.html

    Worth reading – especially the last paragraph – for a clear illustration of how a supposedly liberal newspaper reverts to type when the cosy manufactured neoliberal consensus is threatened.


    1. Ray Bell says:

      None of Chavez’s opponents see to point out how bad Venezuela was BC. My cousin worked in Caracas in the oil industry many years ago… it was dangerous, corrupt, stratified etc. Chavez at least addressed these issues rather than ignoring them. BC, the oil money went nowhere near hospitals.

      And despite authoritarian tendencies, I do not consider him a dictator.

      Politicians not living up to promises… lots of that round here. I no longer agree with Nick…

      It’s about time we ditched Guardian-style so called “liberalism” in Scotland. It’s a sick naive American parody of the left, with all of the life sucked out and replaced with sugar.

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