Hugo Chávez is dead: World mourns Venezuelan leader

by our Latin America correspondent

Hugo Chávez is dead. The leader of the Bolivarian Revolution passed away in the Dr Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas on Tuesday after a long struggle against cancer. The political and military leadership has met to pledge their loyalty to the Bolivarian Revolution and the Constitution while the armed forces have been deployed across the country to ensure public safety.

Tens of thousands of Cubans working in Venezuela are paying homage to the man who worked tirelessly to cement the bonds of friendship between Venezuela and the Cuban Revolution while tributes to the life of this outstanding revolutionary pour in across the country and throughout the world.

Millions of Venezuelans took to the streets to express their grief when the news broke that their leader had lost his final battle. Others rushed to the hall of the military academy in Caracas, the cradle of the Bolivarian revolution, on Wednesday to pay their last respects to the mortal remains of the leader of the Venezuelan revolution that will lie in state until the funeral on Friday.

But his deputy, Vice President Nicolas Maduro called on the people of Venezuela to turn their grief into action.

“From now on, mourning is banned. Let us sing to honour him, sing him songs by [famed Venezuelan musician, poet, and political activist] Alí Primera. And his songs and the spirit of Hugo Chávez will be the greatest forces of this country to confront the challenges ahead of us. Those who die for life cannot be called dead.”

Maduro said Chávez’s enemies had hurt his health with lies and rumours, adding that a scientific commission will eventually find proof that Chávez’s illness was intentionally caused.

Maduro also said that the leadership had uncovered new plans by reactionary forces at home and abroad to destabilise the Venezuelan government. The American Air Force attaché at the US embassy in Caracas had been unmasked trying to subvert army officers. He has been given 24 hours to leave the country.

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was born on 28th July 1954.

His parents were workers who lived in Sabatena in western Venezuela. Chávez joined the army looking for a career. Anger at the poverty and injustice all around him led to the formation of a revolutionary officers’ movement that tried to overthrow the government in 1992.

Chávez was imprisoned for two years for that.

When he was released he rallied fellow officers and civilians around a new socialist platform, the Fifth Republic Movement, to challenge the old order in parliament. Six years later that movement swept him to power when he won the presidential election with over 56 per cent of the popular vote.

In 2007 his movement joined with others to build the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that has become the largest left party in the western hemisphere with nearly six million members. Chávez championed the rights of the workers, the poor and the marginalised in Venezuelan society.

He aligned his country with Cuba and the other people’s democracies and led the campaign for land reform, public health and education and the nationalisation of key industries. Time and time again he was re-elected despite the best efforts of local reactionaries and their imperialist masters to defeat or overthrow him.

In 2002 Chávez was arrested by reactionary forces, led by the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce, who had launched a coup with the support of US intelligence. Loyalist soldiers and police backed by the masses freed him within 48 hours. The ringleaders later fled the country and others were pardoned.

Throughout his life Chávez was a fighter. He was an honest, clear-sighted, brave and daring revolutionary fighter, a founding leader of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas and of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Hugo Chávez led a movement that took millions out of poverty.

His Bolivarian Revolution was an inspiration to all the people of Latin America struggling for freedom and social justice. Though he will be greatly missed he will never be forgotten.