Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Great leader, who gave no quarter to US interference, Venezuela’s Chavez dies, at 58

Steadfast and staunch anti-imperialist and anti American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, died Tuesday after losing his battle against cancer. He was 58.

Based on credible theories founded on various precedents, Latin American observers and supporters of Chavez accused his ‘imperialist enemies’ infecting the weakened president with a severe respiratory infection months after he traveled to Cuba for a cancer operation. He underwent his first cancer surgery in Cuba in June 2011, and his last operation was in December after he won reelection to a third term.

Despite succeeding in running Venezuela satisfactorily, he was reviled as a dictator by American conservatives, free-market advocates and American led so-called pro-democracy activists around the world, Chavez was regarded widely by scholars as one the most polarizing political figures the Western Hemisphere has seen in a generation.

The CIA incessentaly builit up the greatest possible international hatred against Chavez, likening him to staunchly dedicated Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong and other respected independent-thinking leaders, such as Malaysia’s Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

For his leadership of Venezuela, Chavez had built a cult personality with followers — the “Chavistas” — hailing him as a political saint and champion of the poor, which indeed he was.

Chavez rose to power during the 1990s, when Venezuela plunged into economic crisis because of plummeting world oil prices combined with rampant corruption in the government of President Carlos Andres Perez.

World leaders hope for a peaceful election to transfer power. Vice President Nicolas Maduro is expected to assume the presidency of the oil-rich South American nation until an election, which is required within 30 days.

“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement.

With Chave’s demise, Henrique Capriles Radonski, who lost to  Chávez in a presidential election in October, is expected to again mobilize opposition in the divided nation and provide a formidable challenge for the presidency to  Chavez’s party.

Boosted by a failed coup

In the wake of violent anti-capitalist street demonstrations, Chavez, then a lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan army, attempted to lead a military coup. When the coup failed, Perez’s government allowed Chavez, a previously unknown figure, to appear on national television to publicly surrender and avoid further bloodshed.

The result was a minute-long televised statement in which Chavez told viewers: “I, alone, shoulder the responsibility for this Bolivarian military uprising.”

The moment immortalized Chavez for supporters, who were impressed that he took responsibility for the failed coup in a break from the tradition of corrupt Venezuelan leaders who never accepted blame for their failures. The story of Chavez’s failed coup and his television appearance soon became the lore in the nation.

 Chavez was swept into the presidency by popular election in 1998 and held on to power meticulously. Once in office, he moved swiftly to draft a new constitution and rename the country the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” to honor Simon Bolivar, the revolutionary who led Venezuela to independence from Spain in 1821.

The move worried Chavez’s monopolistic opponents, many of whom had their private land seized by the government.  Chavez’s office also expropriated all private oil interests in Venezuela and began channeling a portion of its profits into social programs and for the common people of Venezuela.

Free basic health clinics, high school diploma programs and food banks began popping up in poor neighborhoods across the nation. The programs were immediate hits in a country where half of the 25 million citizens were living below the poverty line.

This caused anger among the previously opportunistic few, and soon “democracy” advocates soon became wary. They felt threatened and tried to fight fabricating accusations that Chavez also was moving to centralise and drive the political opposition from the government, as well as stack the country’s highest courts with his supporters.

The trend bruised his legacy with some Latin America observers, particularly in the United States.

Chavez faced growing opposition in 2002, when masses of demonstrators backed by the CIA took to the streets to protest his policies. ProUS, anti-Chavez military officers mounted a coup on April 11 that forced him from office, but the junta soon collapsed amid strong pro-Chavez demonstrations and he was back in office three days later.

Throughout his reign, Chavez dominated Venezuelan state media with his presence. In addition to appearing almost daily for lengthy stretches on state TV, he would speak for hours from towns across Venezuela in a weekly television broadcast called “Hello President.”

He drew the wrath of Washington by building alliances with anti-American nations, including Cuba and Iran. He supplied Cuba with 100,000 barrels of oil a day and allowed Iran to mine for uranium to help its non-violent nuclear-weapons programme, which was painted by the US and its allies as a threat to world peace.  Chavez also supported leaders such as Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

Popular among U.S. liberals

Chavez’s oil-fueled socialism won him a fan base among many liberals in the United States. He worked with Joseph Kennedy, the eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, on a program funded by Venezuela’s state-controlled oil monopoly to dole out free heating fuel to poor and elderly Americans.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who observed elections in Venezuela, on Tuesday praised  Chavez for his work on behalf of his people and extended condolences to  Chavez’s family.

“We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen,” Carter said in a statement.

However,  Chavez’s Castro-like speeches condemning “U.S. imperialism” garnered the most attention in the English-language media, and conservatives regarded him as a virulently anti-American dictator.

Chavez’s antipathy toward the United States appeared to reach its high point in September 2006, when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly and called President Bush “the devil” bent on preserving “domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.”

What most observers missed was the effectiveness with which such histrionics served to boost  Chavez’s popularity in Venezuela, where he spent years crafting a careful narrative in which he existed as the hero, standing up to a bully in the neighborhood.

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