Rest In Power, Comandante! Thoughts on the death of Hugo Chavez
CANCER gave Venezuela a bloodless coup when it claimed the life of Hugo Chavez, the country’s President.
Sean Penn liked him:
“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela. Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro.”
That’s from the actor whose Wikipedia page describes himself as “ambassador-at-large for Haiti, incumbent”. Still, the grandstanding actor’s hard to dislike, his short temper and non-suffering of fools make him a character in the sea of taught smiling faces. The two-time Oscar winner did nail it when he said of his gongs:
“The Academy awards is merely an opportunity to be an extra in a TV show and maybe 20 seconds more than that if you win.”
And he married Madonna and pulled Scarlett Johansson.
Oliver Stoned also liked Chavaz:
”I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.”
Death is a peace earned? While all despots, even the ones democratically elected, like Chavez, look forward to that, we note that Chavez as not always all ticket. But Ken Livingstone, London’s former mayor, liked him, tweeting:
“Hugo Chávez stands alongside the statesmen/women in the great pantheon of socialist leaders throughout the ages. Rest In Power, Comandante!”
David Aaronovitch was less impressed. He writes:
Chávez knew that Osama Bin Laden hadn’t brought down the twin towers just as he knew that the Americans hadn’t landed on the moon. Just as Maduro knows that the Americans arranged for Chávez to die of cancer…
There is a desperation on the Left for heroes who can reverse what seems like half a century of ideological defeat. Chávez, though originally a military man who organised his own coup, later democratically succeeded a series of corrupt oligarchies who had left most of the country’s people in misery. He set out reforms and programmes, using his country’s oil money, that helped the poorest. And he put two fingers up at the United States, whose record in Latin America, up till the 1980s, had been one of support for vicious dictators.
He was Fidel with an electoral mandate — and a Christ complex.
Owen Jones was a fan:
And then there is the matter of some of Chavez’s unpleasant foreign associations. Although his closest allies were his fellow democratically elected left-of-centre governments in Latin America – nearly all of whom passionately defended Chavez from foreign criticism – he also supported brutal dictators in Iran, Libya and Syria. It has certainly sullied his reputation. Of course, we in the West can hardly single out Chavez for unsavoury alliances. We support and arm dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia; Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair is paid $13 million a year to work for Kazakhstan’s dictatorship. But our own hypocrisy does not absolve Chavez of criticism.
The so-called Bolivarian Revolution was overly dependent on Chavez’s own reputation, and inevitably his death raises questions about its future direction. But have no doubt: Chavez was a democratically elected champion of the poor. His policies lifted millions out of abject poverty and misery. He represented a break from years of corrupt regimes with often dire human rights records. His achievements were won in the face of an attempted military coup, an aggressively hostile media, and bitter foreign critics. He demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neo-liberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity. He will be mourned by millions of Venezuelans – and understandably so.
A few quotes, then, from the departed leader:
“I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet. Careful! Here on planet Earth where hundreds of years ago or less there were great forests, now there are deserts. Where there were rivers, there are deserts.”
“It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America. Would it be so strange that [the US has] invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?”
On Halloween: “Terrorism, putting fear into other nations, putting fear into their own people. Families go and begin to disguise their children as witches. This is contrary to our way”
What will they say when Ahmadinejad departs?