Chavez revived faith in socialism and fought for social justice

Venezuela US
By Ameen Izzadeen
(This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka)
The Third World has lost a true friend — Venezuela’s revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez. A champion of the oppressed people, he played a historic role and his vision revived the faith in socialism and non-alignment at a time when countries in the developing world scrambled to sacrifice their sovereignty on the altar of capitalism for the few crumbs that fell from the neocolonialist master’s table.
A socialist Christian, he detested exploitation, a hallmark of capitalism. “Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ — who I think was the first socialist — only socialism can really create a genuine society,” Chavez said.
The capitalist world must be heaving a sigh of relief at the death of Chavez who breathed his last on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. In all probability, even before Chavez is laid to rest today, the directors and the CEOs of multinationals and giant oil mafias must be busy in their board rooms drawing up plans to gobble up Venezuela’s oil and other resources. Tweets from Venezuela claim that Chavez’s political opponents, who are seen as the lackeys of the United States, have already scheduled meetings with top US officials, including Roberta Jacobsen, assistant US secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Chavez gave hope to Venezuela’s poor and marginalised, especially the sidelined indigenous people, by spending the country’s oil revenue on their welfare. His death was a major blow to the poor who had just begun to realise the fruit of Chavism – Chavez’s market economy with a socialist core.
Chavez was a political reincarnation of Che Guevara, the revolutionary socialist guerrilla leader, who fought for Cuba’s freedom from the claws of capitalism in 1959 and was captured and summarily executed by the CIA-backed Bolivian Army in 1967.
What Che could not do in Bolivia in the 1960s, Chavez did in 2006, when socialist candidate Evo Morales, inspired by Chavez’s version of socialism, was swept to power in the presidential election. The spark of what Chavez called ‘the 21st century socialism” or “Bolivarian Revolution” (named after the 19th century revolutionary Simon Bolivar), soon became a torch that guided socialist parties in Latin American nations to election victories. Socialism in South America – the US backyard – grew into a strong fortress against imperialism and neocolonialism.
Chavez sought to change an economic order that saw the rich who plundered the country’s oil resources together with American oil giants become richer. By nationalising the oil industry, Chavez was able to raise the wages of the working class, drastically reduce poverty, implement a successful programme to provide decent shelter to the poor and set up scores of new universities. He carried forward his ambitious social programmes despite criticism in the capitalist media which saw them as a waste of resources. Foreign investors shunned Venezuela. He did not mind, but they ganged up against him.
In 2002, he survived a US-backed political coup led by a section of the military and the capitalist class represented by the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce. Chamber chief Pedro Carmona became the interim president for 47 hours until millions of people revolted against the coup leaders and reinstated Chavez in office. Carmona escaped and now lives in Florida. Rushing to grant de facto recognition to the Carmona government were the United States and Spain. But their hypocrisy became evident when they issued statements condemning the coup once Chavez regained power. Relations with the US turned bitter after the coup attempt. The US media clumped him together with dictators such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe — more so after he removed the constitutional provision that restricted a president’s terms in office to two.
Such criticism in the US media and Washington’s corridors of power became hollow when Chavez won three successive presidential elections despite democracy-promoting American NGOs backing the opposition candidates.
The 2002 Venezuela coup had parallels in the 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddeq government in Iran. Like Chavez, Mosaddeq also nationalised Iran’s oil wealth and their actions prompted the CIA to play a key role in both the coups. Ironically, Chavez owed his political career to a botched military coup which he together with left-minded military leaders launched in 1992. He served a two-year jail term for it but upon his release, he formed the Fifth Republic Movement and campaigned on a socialist platform to win the presidential election in 1998.
After the failed coup in 2002, Chavez learnt how immoral and unethical the US foreign policy was and he began to say that he would be assassinated by the CIA’s Murder Incorporated, a unit that unsuccessfully tried to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro by various means, including poisoning. He believed that the cancer he was suffering from was induced into his body by the CIA.
“Would it be strange if they [the US] had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it?” Chavez told the nation after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. After all, the Americans were known to have infected Guatemalan prisoners with syphilis and other diseases in their germ warfare experiments, he said. In announcing the death of Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro repeated the charge: “We have no doubt that Chavez’s cancer was induced by foul play by the historical enemies of our homeland.” Those who doubted this, Maduro said, should take a look at the controversy over the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. It is widely believed that Arafat died of nuclear poisoning introduced into his body by Israeli agents.
Committed to social justice, Chavez was a champion of the Palestinian cause. He gave citizenship to the stateless Palestinian refugees. He severed diplomatic relations with Israel when the Zionist state invaded Lebanon in 2006. He strengthened ties with Cuba, Iran and China – countries with which the US has disputes over ideological, economic and security matters.
Even at the risk of a sparking a war with neighbouring Columbia, a strong US ally, Chavez supported the FARC rebels who were trying to set up a socialist regime. In July 2009, he threatened to declare war on Columbia when the then Columbian president Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of sheltering and training FARC rebels. Critics claimed that the FARC rebels used the money they raised through the illegal cocaine trade to fund the election campaigns of Chavez and Ecuador’s socialist president Rafel Corea. Both Venezuela and Ecuador have rejected these claims as ‘absolutely false’. But Chavez’s support for FARC was solid. He later supported peace talks between FARC and the new Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos. But the five-decade-old conflict which has seen 500,000 deaths rages on with the rebels withdrawing from the talks in January after the Columbian government refused to give in to the main FARC demand that its socialist principles be included in the country’s constitution.
The death of Chavez has dealt a body blow to FARC. A big question mark hangs over its survival as Venezuela faces political uncertainty amidst preparations for elections to pick a new president within 30 days.
Certainly Chavez’s chosen successor, Vice President Maduro, will take time to emerge as a charismatic leader though he is expected to sweep the elections. Yet will he have the courage to take on the US and call one of its presidents a devil? “Yesterday the devil came here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today,” Chávez told the United Nations General Assembly in September 2006, referring to the then US President George W. Bush.
On another occasion, Chavez won the accolades of the world’s oppressed people who were yearning for a Spartacus like hero to check the juggernaut of the US military power that was creating hell and havoc in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. This was when he described Bush in these terms: “You are a coward, a killer, a [perpetrator of] genocide, an alcoholic, a drunk, a liar, an immoral person, Mr. Danger. You are the worst, Mr. Danger. The worst of this planet… A psychologically sick man, I know it.”
He was equally critical of Britain’s then prime minister Tony Blair. “Don’t be shameless, Mr. Blair. Don’t be immoral, Mr. Blair. You are one of those who have no morals. You are not one who has the right to criticise anyone about the rules of the international community. You are an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favour with Danger Bush-Hitler, the number one mass murderer and assassin there is on the planet. Go straight to hell, Mr. Blair.”
Hours before Chavez died, Vice President Maduro showed that he was as determined and committed as the dying president was in the fight against imperialism, by declaring two US diplomats persona non-grata on charges of trying to recruit Venezuelan military officers for “destabilising projects”. But the task ahead will be a tough one for him, especially in view of a wounded Washington waiting for an opportunity to take another plunge into Venezuela’s politics and pave the way for the US energy giants to re-enter the country. This was clear in the statement US President Barack Obama issued on the death of Chavez. He said: “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chávez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.”
Even if Maduro wins the presidential election, he needs to be watchful of the military. Chavez was a military man and therefore he had the support of a substantial segment of the military. But Maduro was a former bus drivers’ union leader. This is what makes him vulnerable when no one can rule out another CIA-backed military coup in Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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1 Response to Chavez revived faith in socialism and fought for social justice

  1. says:

    Good article !
    Sent via BlackBerry® from Dialog

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