Together with the people of Venezuela, Latin America and all anti-imperialists and progressive people world-wide, we mourn the loss of our comrade Presidente Hugo Chávez.
His death is not only a huge loss for Venezuela, but for the whole of Latin America. And not only for Venezuela and Latin America, but for the entire world.
This loss is felt most deeply in Venezuela itself where people have flooded onto the streets to show their grief and respect, chanting, “Chávez vive, la lucha sigue”: “Chávez lives, the battle continues”.
This love and respect is a reflection of Chávez’s achievements but also his personal courage in pursuing the most progressive goals.
Even in 1992, when the US stood at the height of its imperial arrogance having won the ‘Cold War’, when its ideologists were proclaiming ‘The End of History’, Chávez led the attempted overthrow of the government of Perez that had massacred thousands of Venezuelans in the suppression of the Caracazo uprising.
Despite this initial defeat and his own arrest and imprisonment, Chávez continued to work for the liberation of Venezuela. He accepted defeat at the time, but coined the slogan ‘Por Ahora’ (For the time being), still used by his supporters, indicating that he had not given up the struggle.
In 1998 and since Venezuelan’s have shown their support for that by re-electing Chávez and his supporters time and again.
Again, Chávez’s personal courage at the time of the attempted coup in April 2002 was remarkable. Despite being air-lifted out of the Presidential palace by armed supporters of the coup plotters, placed under military arrest and facing an immediate threat to his life he refused to sign over the constitutional power of the Presidency. This refusal meant the plotters were deprived of the fig-leaf of constitutional legitimacy, which in turn encouraged and made possible the massive uprising of the Venezuelan people that defeated the coup, split the army and smashed the backbone of the counter-revolution within the Venezuelan armed forces.
This revolutionary uprising not only defeated the coup attempt but placed the Chávez government in firm control of the reins of the state.
This was consolidated through the defeat of the anti-Chávez management lock-out and shut down of the Venezuelan oil industry from December 2002 to February 2003. The Venezuelan oil company, the PDVSA, was split up and its management replaced. This consolidated the Venezuelan state’s control over its key economic resource.
The political power of the working class was created for the first time in one of the most important Latin American countries.
Chávez then used this power to take Venezuela and its people forward. His achievements in Venezuela are remarkable.
Despite having the world’s largest untapped reserves of oil, for the 25 years before Chávez came to power in 1999 GDP per head in Venezuela had fallen year on year. The oligarchs and their imperialist partners expatriated huge amounts of the oil so that this wealth never benefitted the Venezuelan people. Chávez drove out the oligarchs, expropriated the imperialists, and used Venezuela’s oil resources for the benefit of the country and its people. Investment in health care, education and housing in particular meant the cycle of decline was ended and the Venezuelan economy grew by 300% in the last 14 years. In this Venezuela has been particularly helped by the success of China, which has provided not only trade but technology that has made a real difference to people’s lives. For example, the launch of two telecommunications satellites in 2008 and 2012 by China brought phone contact to remote areas of the country for the first time.
But his role was not confined to Venezuela. In Latin America and the Caribbean he built alliances and brought much needed to support to other regimes that were standing up to imperialism and facing blockade, political and military interference and coup attempts.
Cuba in particular not only brought crucial support to Venezuela in providing doctors to staff new clinics, and supplying a whole range of health and other expertise, was itself supported through access to reliable energy resources. The relationship between Chávez and the leadership of the Cuban revolution linked Venezuela to the most advanced working class political leadership in the world today. This amplified the impact of the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions across the region.
This in turn helped propel a whole movement to the left across the continent, encouraging radical, anti-imperialist leaderships in Bolivia and Ecuador in particular. But in promoting and extending material support to the integration and independence of Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole, Chávismo – linked to Cuba – won many friends and exercised growing political influence across the region.
That is why – as a blogger in China put it appropriately – ‘The entire continent of Latin America is crying.’ A state of mourning has been declared in Ecuador, Bolivia, Dominica, Nicaragua and Cuba as well as Venezuela itself. And across the continent there have been spontaneous vigils and memorials.
But Chávez’s impact was not confined to Latin America. Despite the harassment by the US, he has been outspoken in support of the Palestinians, opposed the US war-mongering against Iran, stood up against US and European military interventions and fought for the right to independent development of all countries under the cosh of imperialism.
These achievements mean only Fidel Castro and Che Guevara can be placed on the same level as Hugo Chávez as a Latin American leader. Chávez is one of the great revolutionary leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries.
His loss is mourned by all those fighting for socialism, justice and human progress. His memory and achievements will remain an inspiration in that fight.