The World Mourns Hugo Chavez: Two Tributes


A tribute in facts

The best tribute that can be paid to Hugo Chavez, the poor boy from the plains of Barinas, who within a decade-and-a-half changed the face of his country and Latin America, comes in the facts. In 1999, when Chavez assumed the presidency through a ballot, household poverty in Venezuela stood at 55 per cent. By 2009, it had fallen to 26.4 per cent, and the decline has continued. Unemployment over the same period fell from 15 per cent to 7.8 per cent. Lives changed dramatically as a result of sweeping reforms bringing in healthcare, education and welfare for the people.

No one had expected the maverick ‘comandante’ to die so soon, aged only 58 — on March 5  — of cancer-related complications in a Caracas hospital. The news of the cancer had been announced 21 months ago, but the death of the man — who took on the US, scoffed at its leaders and united Latin American countries under his own vision of a Bolivarian revolution, inspired by Simon Bolivar, the region’s legendary liberation hero — is still hard to accept. Chavez, who rather than holding cabinet meetings, preferred speaking to his people for hours, live, over television and radio, had again swept to power in 2012. He had, after leading a failed coup attempt in 1992, shown that change through the ballot was possible. He had also survived a 2002 coup d’etat attempt, backed by the US — a country within which he is reviled.

Chavez used Venezuela’s oil wealth for the good of its people. They responded by turning out in huge numbers at the main square in Caracas as his death was announced by Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, who is also his successor. New polls are now due in 30 days. Through these, the extraordinary legacy of Hugo Chavez, with his trademark red beret, is expected to live on. His influence will be hard to destroy, with the wave of change he brought in having already swept across the region. Culled from The Express Tribune


Hugo Chavez and his friends are the axis of absurdity

By: David Blair

Various dictators, killers and fruitcakes are fighting back manly tears today. If a leader can be judged by his friends, then the fact that the world’s most brutal regimes have paid fulsome tribute to Hugo Chavez reveals much about the late Commandante.

In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s regime praised Chavez for his “honourable” support of, well, Bashar al-Assad. Chavez had “stood on the side of the Arabs’ legitimate rights” and opposed “the conspiracy against Syria,” said the official news agency in Damascus. Let’s remember that last October, Chavez declared: “How can I not support Assad? He’s the legitimate leader.”

As it happens, Assad inherited the presidency of Syria from his father in the style of an absolute monarch. If Chavez considered him “legitimate”, then this great socialist must also have been a supporter of the hereditary principle.

You will not be surprised to read that the most quixotic tribute of all came from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Hailing Chavez’s human virtues was not quite enough; Ahmadinejad also praised the late president in quasi-religious terms.

Remember that Ahmadinejad thinks the 12th Imam of the Shia faith (known as the “perfect human”) will one day return to rule the world in peace and justice. The Imam will, according to his tradition, come back with Jesus Christ as his loyal lieutenant. But Ahmadinejad thinks the “perfect human” will need more help. To make his entourage even more distinguished, Hugo Chavez will apparently be along as well.

Thus Ahmadinejad hailed the “brave, strong” Commandante, adding: “I have no doubt that he will return, along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human.”

Where does one begin with a statement like that? Forget the millenarian mysticism for a moment and remember that Ahmadinejad helps to run a militarised, repressive, ultra right-wing theocracy. Meanwhile, Assad is the besieged figurehead of a de facto monarchy.

No genuine, Left-wing progressive should have anything to do with them. Except that both are virulently anti-American. And that, in Chavez’s eyes, meant they should be forgiven any crime and praised to the skies. This is not the axis of evil, but the axis of absurdity.

David Blair became Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in November 2011. He previously worked for the paper as Diplomatic Editor, Africa Correspondent and Middle East Correspondent. 

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