The following article is based on a speech delivered by a member of the Central Committee of the CPGB-ML to the memorial meeting, ‘Hugo Chávez and the Venezuelan Revolution’, organised by the party in London on 8 March, the day of Comrade Chávez’s funeral.
Speaking of Mao’s contributions, the Chinese Communist Party has summed up: “Without him the Chinese people would, at the very least, have spent much more time groping in the dark.”
The same, also at the very least, can be said about the relationship between Hugo Chávez and the people of Venezuela.
Hugo Chávez was a patriot and a champion of the poor who transformed the lives of millions of his long-oppressed and downtrodden compatriots – the workers, the people living in the teeming urban barrios, women, youth, African Venezuelans and the indigenous peoples – not only through real and meaningful reforms, but also in the course of the first determined, conscious and ongoing effort to forge and build a new socialist state that the world has seen in some 30 years.
For these reasons alone, we join with our class brothers and sisters in Venezuela, and with their friends and comrades around the world, in mourning, with deepest grief, the loss of this revolutionary warrior at the too-young age of 58, but also in celebrating his revolutionary life.
However, the significance of Hugo Chávez goes far beyond the borders and shores of Venezuela. He was an internationalist revolutionary who stood on the side of every single people fighting against oppression and exploitation. An outstanding political figure of the last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st, it can truly be said that, in recent years, no single individual played a greater role in the worldwide anti-imperialist struggle. Therefore, as our party’s statement, quoting Comrade Mao Zedong, rightly says, his death truly is weightier than Mount Tai.
Hugo Chávez was born into a working-class family and spent his early years in material poverty, largely raised by his loving grandparents. Like many others, he joined the army as the only career path open to him. It was being sent to the countryside to fight against Marxist-Leninist guerrillas that awakened him to political consciousness; to the fact that it was the guerrillas who were engaged in a just struggle, for his people and for his class. From this time, until the moment he breathed his last, he embarked on the life of a revolutionary – a course from which he never retreated or looked back.
It was 1992, when the world was still reeling from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries, and when the US was at the height of its imperial arrogance, that Chávez launched his first attempt to seize power. Although that attempt ended in failure, he only accepted defeat “por ahora”, for the time being – a sentiment that gripped the Venezuelan people’s hearts and saw him and his comrades swept to power in 1998 and in numerous subsequent elections.
Chávez’s enormous bravery was again displayed at the time of the short-lived fascist coup in April 2002. His refusal, despite the real and imminent threat to his life, to sign away the presidency enabled the popular masses to rise up, split the army, defeat the coup, and bring Chávez back to the Miraflores (presidential) Palace.
Consolidating the power of the working class
The coup was not only defeated, but the popular masses were, as a result, able to substantially consolidate their political state power, as well as its control of the main economic levers, principally the state-owned oil company PDVSA, enabling Chávez to openly proclaim the socialist character of the revolution he was leading.
Despite the fact that Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, the incomes of working people had dropped every single year in the 25 years before Chávez came to power.
By contrast, in the last 14 years, during which Chávez held office, the Venezuelan economy grew by 300 percent, with massive investment in health care, housing and education, and with millions of people lifted out of poverty. No wonder that the oligarchs, the imperialists and their venal media consistently accused Chávez of mismanaging the economy!
As Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams put it: “President Chávez worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Venezuelan citizens. He dedicated himself to building a new and radical society in Venezuela. His progressive social and economic changes took millions out of poverty. He extended free health care and education for all citizens and his re-election last year with a huge majority was testimony to his vision.”
However, this great man of vision, was determined not to use his country’s vast mineral wealth only for narrow national interests – even the national interests of the vast majority – but rather to also support progressive change, the consolidation and development of the revolution, in the entire Latin American region, and, indeed, the whole world.
In 1968, the Korean revolutionary leader Kim Il Sung had written:
“Consolidation of the triumph of the Cuban revolution is not only an important question on which the life or death, the rise or fall, of the Cuban people depends. It is also a key factor in influencing the general development of the Latin-American revolution.
“It is of great importance to the defence of the Cuban revolution that the revolutionary movement in neighbouring Latin-American countries should advance. If the flames of revolution flare up fiercely in many countries of Latin America where US imperialism sets foot, its force will be dispersed, its energy sapped, and the attempts of the US imperialists and their lackeys to strangle Cuba by concentrated force will inevitably fail.
“Furthermore, if the revolution triumphs in other Latin-American countries, Cuba will be saved from the imperialism that hems her in on all sides, a favourable phase in the Cuban and Latin-American revolutions will be opened, and the world revolution will be even further advanced.” (‘The great anti-imperialist revolutionary cause of the Asian, African, and Latin American peoples is invincible. On the first anniversary of the death of Che Guevara in battle’, reproduced in ‘Kim Il Sung: 1912-1994’, Proletarian, April 2012)
Nobody understood this profound truth better than Hugo Chávez. Nobody put it into practice better than he did.
It is noteworthy that, in 2005, Hugo Chávez personally welcomed and supported the holding of a world conference on the Juche idea (the revolutionary ideology of Comrade Kim Il Sung) in Venezuela. He met with the leaders of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) delegation to the conference and authorised his vice president to attend and speak at it on his behalf.
The best friend that Cuba ever had
When Chávez came to power, Cuba was only just emerging from the special period occasioned by the collapse of the Soviet Union. To a very great degree, Venezuelan oil has revived and consolidated the Cuban revolution. Cuban teachers and doctors, along with experts in every field of life, have helped to consolidate and deepen the Venezuelan revolution. That is true internationalism in action.
Comrade Fidel Castro described Chávez as having been the “best friend the Cuban people had ever had in their history”. Tens of thousands of Cubans paid tribute to Chávez at ceremonies throughout the socialist island and the country’s president, Comrade Raúl Castro declared:
“What we were able to achieve with his influence in these few years will not be reversed. The Venezuelan people will know how to defend their victories, and we will be with them as we have so far, feet on the ground.”
A statement from the Cuban government noted: “The Cuban people think of him as one of their greatest sons, and have admired, followed and loved him as one of their own. Chávez is Cuban too! He felt in his flesh and bones our hard times and problems, and he did everything that he could, with extraordinary generosity.”
Together, Cuba and Venezuela, with political leaderships with no other loyalties other than to the oppressed, have spearheaded the most remarkable change of an entire continent – from the hereditary backyard of US imperialism into the scene of the most progressive political developments in the world today. In this process, Chávez led in the creation of such bodies as Alba, a regional trade body of socialist orientation, of Petrocaribe, providing much needed affordable fuel to vulnerable economies in the Caribbean and Central America, and of Celac, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, to unite the whole of the Americas, but without the imperialist United States and Canada.
At the heart of this process lay a developing core of countries with political leaderships of the working class, aspiring to socialism, with Cuba and Venezuela joined in this orientation by Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
Broadest possible alliance
But Hugo Chávez, along with Fidel and Raúl, knew that to defeat imperialism, and to build a new world of independence, required not only the unity of the consciously socialist forces on their own, but also, with the vanguard of the working class at its heart, the broadest possible alliance of all those forces whose objective conditions brought them into contradiction with imperialism. Again, Hugo Chávez was in unity with the standpoint of Comrade Kim Il Sung, who, in the article quoted above, had written:
“In Asia, Africa and Latin America, there are socialist and neutral, large and small countries. All these countries, except the imperialists’ puppet regimes and satellite states, constitute anti-imperialist, anti-US forces. Despite the differences of socio-political systems, political views and religious beliefs, the peoples of these countries, because they are oppressed and exploited by the imperialists and colonialists, oppose imperialism and old and new colonialism and jointly aspire towards national independence and national prosperity.
“The differences in socio-political systems, political views or religious beliefs cannot be an obstacle to joint action against US imperialism. All countries should form an anti-imperialist united front and take anti-US joint action to crush the common enemy and attain the common goal.
“It is true that there may be different categories of people amongst those who oppose imperialism. Some may actively oppose imperialism, others may hesitate in the anti-imperialist struggle, and still others may join the struggle reluctantly under pressure from their own people and the peoples of the world. But whatever their motives, it is necessary to enlist all these forces except the henchmen of imperialism in the combined anti-US struggle.
“If more forces – however inconsistent and unsteady – are drawn into the anti-US joint struggle to isolate US imperialism to the greatest possible extent and unite in attacking it, that will be a positive achievement. Those who avoid the anti-imperialist struggle should be induced to join it and those who are passive should be encouraged to become active. To split the anti-US united front or reject anti-US joint action will only lead to the serious consequence of weakening the anti-imperialist, anti-US struggle.”
Once again, these words, written by Comrade Kim Il Sung, were put into practice by Comrade Hugo Chávez, not only in Latin America but also throughout the world.
As Bolivian president Evo Morales said in his tribute to Hugo Chávez: “A lot of strength, a lot of unity. The best tribute to Chávez is unity. Unity to fight, to work for the equality of all peoples of the world.”
One noteworthy example of this is the degree of affection and support that Chávez lavished on tiny countries in the Caribbean – and, consequently, the touching tributes their leaders have made.
Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister of Dominica, said: “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. Comrade Chávez did all for the people not only of Venezuela, but also for Latin America and indeed the world.
“He will be remembered also for bringing the Caribbean and Latin America together. For many of us here in Dominica, this was not just another head of state or a head of government of a sister country. Hugo Chávez was a true friend of Dominica; indeed, he was Dominican in many respects. I have lost a colleague, a father, a brother and a friend. Hugo Chávez held my hands in the brightest and the darkest hours of my tenure to date as prime minister.”
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said: “A beacon, a guiding light has been extinguished in flesh; a light which illuminated and not blinded us in our quest for peace, justice, democracy and humanity, particularly for the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalised. He was a nationalist, an ardent promoter of nationalism in Latin America and the Caribbean, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist to the core.”
Gonsalves added that he was first told of President Chávez during a private meeting in September 2001 with Fidel Castro:
“Fidel told me then that there is a historic force that has arisen in Venezuela by the name of Chávez. In time, I came to know first hand Fidel’s assessment of Hugo as someone who loves people, especially the poor and working people, who hated injustice and who was possessed of an abundance of generosity of spirit and solidarity with fellow fighters for justice, peace and genuine democracy.
“Without Hugo Chávez, there would have been no Petrocaribe, no Alba and no Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Denzil Douglas, prime minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, said:
“We have lost a true advocate of the indigent and the voiceless, a patriot, who was passionate about his country’s development and laboured tirelessly for the good of the masses in Venezuela,” adding, “indeed, the impact of his social programmes has been felt not only in his own country, but has had a tremendous effect throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis has been a recipient of Hugo’s altruism, beneficence and generosity.”
An Afro-Latin people
Just as Fidel had said when Cuba sent its internationalist combatants to Angola, for Hugo Chávez, Venezuela and the Venezuelans, too, were not simply part of Latin America, but rather an Afro-Latin nation and people.
Hailing from the African and indigenous working-class communities of Venezuela, Chávez often spoke proudly of his own African ancestry, saying: “We love Africa. And every day, we are more aware of the roots we had in Africa.”
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, led a minute of silence at the AU’s celebration of International Women’s Day, the same day as Comrade Chávez’s funeral, and described him as “a son of Africa and a great revolutionary who fought for the economic emancipation of his people”.
Just this February, the representatives of 63 countries met in Equatorial Guinea for the third Africa South America Summit, which saw the signing of 27 new social and economic agreements, binding these two long-oppressed continents in mutual struggle. The previous summit had been hosted by Comrade Chávez on the Venezuelan island of Margarita, and Venezuela is to host the summit’s secretariat.
In what was possibly his last political writing, Comrade Chávez greeted the summit with these words:
“I truly lament, in the deepest of ways, my inability to be physically present with you and I reiterate once again … my most irrevocable commitment to the cause of union between our people.” He went on to hail the “indivisible historic ties” that bind the two continents and which have obliged them “to walk together until the very end.”
“I will never be tired of saying it: We are one people. We must find each other, beyond the formalities and the speeches, in the feeling of unity. In this way we will take our people out of the labyrinth where they had been cast by colonialism and, in the 20th century, by neoliberal capitalism.”
In mourning Hugo Chávez, therefore, the national chairman of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe declared: “It is clear that as Zanu-PF we have lost a great leader, an icon, a revolutionary and international leader of repute. As a party we grieve together with the people of Venezuela. We hope that his successor will continue spearheading the revolution against the forces of imperialism.”
The Zanu-PF Youth League added: “The youths of Zimbabwe wish to express their profound grief to the people of Venezuela following the death of President Chávez, who championed the building of a thriving socialist state, the ideal society of mankind, while smashing all the challenging warmongering tactics of the world imperialists.”
Prime Minister Hage Geingob of Namibia hailed Chávez as a “real revolutionary and a poor people’s president”, who has left behind a legacy worth emulating.
He told the local media that “Africa and the third world at large has lost a revolutionary leader who expressed views that most leaders were afraid to talk about.”
The Namibian newspaper reported: “Geingob said Africa has much to learn from the late Venezuelan leader, which is to live and stand on principles and not be dragged into signing or nodding to agreements that will haunt them later.
“According to the prime minister, Chávez’s style of ploughing back resources to the masses will be his finest legacy.”
The South African Communist Party described Chávez as “a soldier of the poor and a champion of mass-driven socialism. Chávez dedicated his life to an anti-imperialist agenda, was the foremost frontline combatant against imperialist subjugation of the world and a champion of people’s power.”
The African National Congress added: “To the people of Venezuela, we say their mourning is the mourning of all countries that are fighting to reclaim their place in the world economy.”
The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) declared: “He was the foremost leader of the global anti-imperialist community of our times … The socialist world, the workers, peasants and poor of the world have lost a fearless fighter and spokesperson.”
Cosatu, the progressive trade-union federation of South Africa, and an integral part of the liberation movement, concluded their tribute with these apposite words:
“He was deeply loved by all who are poor, oppressed and fighting against imperialism and the looting of the resources of the world’s people by the few global elites led by the US, but equally, he was deeply hated by both the ruling classes of global imperialism and their lackeys in the form of apologists of the oppressive global empire.
“Therefore, it is our firm belief as revolutionary workers that the history of Latin America and the global south shall be written before and after the great legend, Hugo Chávez Frias.”
Standing with Libya, Syria and Palestine
Of course, in the cause of Africa, and of African-Latin American unity, Chávez had no greater ally than that other staunch anti-imperialist Muammar Gaddafi, whose struggle he supported to the end, declaring: “A campaign of lies is being spun together regarding Libya. I’m not going to condemn him. I’d be a coward to condemn someone who has been my friend. I am not a coward; I am not fickle.”
He took the same stand in support of Syria, with Venezuela sending several tankers of fuel oil to support the beleaguered but defiant Arab nation. From the heart of embattled Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad wrote to Acting President Nicolas Maduro:
“The demise of brother and friend, President Hugo Chávez is a big loss for me and for the Syrian people, as it is a big loss for you, the Venezuelan people and for all honest, free people in the world.
“Fate has taken away a leader who protected the sovereignty of his country … He had embodied a legendary struggle in the face of USA attempts and those who support it to dominate the peoples and states … He has been able to guarantee Venezuela sovereignty, prevent intervention and support the freedom of nations so as to contribute to changing the face of Latin America and to become the symbol of its independence.
“This glorious man has emerged from the ranks of his people and insisted to remain as this … He was committed to the principle of keeping the rights and interests of the Venezuelan people and struggling with his people.
“The Syrian people and I are proud of the remarkable progress of the two countries’ relations in the social, political, economic and cultural fields … The great late President made the confrontation of war on Syria one of the issues that he adopted and defended as well as sought to clarify to the public opinion in Latin America and the world.”
The Lebanese resistance movement Hizbollah declared: “The free world, the oppressed and also us have lost a dear and loyal friend who devoted his life to defend the peoples. We cannot forget the sincere support that the late president gave to Lebanon during the war. The Arab and islamic peoples cannot forget his stance regarding the Palestinians’ rights.”
Memorial meetings were held for Hugo Chávez in Ramallah and other Palestinian towns and cities. Leader of the Palestine National Authority Mahmoud Abbas stated: “With the passing of our brother and comrade Chávez, all the patriots fighting for their freedom have lost a great leader, who fought for a better world, clean of oppression and colonialism.” He went on to say that Chávez would be etched in the Palestinian people’s memories for his unconditional support for the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.
From besieged Gaza, Hamas lauded Chávez as a “great leader who dedicated his life to defending the dignity and liberty of his people … and who supported the Palestinian people and their cause … His last act of bravery was to allow the Palestinians to enter Venezuela without a visa, which many Arab leaders have yet to do.”
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said in its tribute: “The loss of President Chávez is the loss of a friend of the people of Palestine and the Arab people. This is a day of mourning for the Palestinian people, who will never forget Chávez’s stand with us against the aggression and tyranny of the occupation and its crimes.”
Chávez was also deeply mourned by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and its Polisario Front liberation movement, which is fighting for independence against imperialist-backed Moroccan occupation. Comrade Mohamed Abdelaziz, president of the SADR and secretary general of Polisario referred to the “irreparable loss of our brother, Commander Hugo Chávez … [his] death is a great loss not only for the Saharawi people, but also for all human ideals of freedom and justice”.
As recently as 14 February, it had been announced that Venezuela would provide advice to the SADR in the management of water resources. As part of the agreement, 10 technicians from the country will be trained by staff from Venezuela’s National Hydraulics Laboratory in the fields of hydrology and drilling.
This will facilitate access to drinking water in the Sahrawi Republic in order to “strike a blow to the neo-liberal policies of imperialism”, according to a Venezuelan government statement.
Then prime minister of Nepal, Comrade Baburam Bhattarai, vice-chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), took part in a memorial meeting in Kathmandu and called on young people in particular to follow the example of Chávez.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which leads the people’s war in that country, extended “its deepest sympathies to the Venezuelan people during their time of mourning following the death of their beloved president Hugo Chávez”, adding:
“Serving as the Venezuelan people’s champion, Hugo Chávez earned the ire of the US imperialist government, which demanded the return of the rights of the exploitative and oppressive foreign capitalists who sought to monopolise Venezuela’s oil and other natural resources. The US government never relented in its effort to overthrow the Hugo Chávez government and engaged in internal subversion by funding and arming the forces that opposed the Bolivarian revolution … His fierce hatred of imperialism inspired other countries to defend their patrimony and national freedom.”
“I am a Maoist”
Hugo Chávez also grasped that if imperialism was to be successfully confronted, and prospering new societies were to be sustainably built, the peoples of Latin America, Africa and all progressive and anti-imperialist countries and forces also needed to forge a strategic alliance with Russia and China.
Arriving in China in 2008, one of six visits to the country, he declared: “We are offering tribute in the land of Mao. I am a Maoist.”
But this was a relationship that went way beyond mere rhetoric. Writing last October, the influential business publication Bloomberg reported in the context of Chávez’s last election campaign:
“Edelmina Flores thanks God and Hugo Chávez for her apartment in a new housing complex in the Venezuelan president’s home state of Barinas. She might also want to thank the Chinese government. Since 2007, the China Development Bank has lent Venezuela $42.5bn … That sum accounts for nearly a quarter of the bank’s overseas loans. At least $12bn was promised in the past 15 months, when stagnant oil output and higher borrowing costs among major emerging markets made raising capital more expensive.
“The money has provided a crucial boost for Chávez … The Chávez government has finished more than 250,000 houses since last year. In the past 12 months, government spending has risen 30 percent, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, fuelling growth of 5.4 percent in the second quarter.”
China’s loans, to be repaid not in cash, but from Venezuela’s abundant oil, were priced, Bloomberg had to concede, at less than half the rate that Venezuela would have had to pay were it to have borrowed on international capital markets, and had it been able to do so.
Then Chinese president Hu Jintao said that Chávez was an outstanding leader of Venezuela and a distinguished politician in Latin America, who had devoted all his life to national development and social progress, and earned respect and support from the Venezuelan people, adding:
“The Chinese people lost such a great friend, who had promoted the China-Venezuela strategic partnership and contributed to enhancing bilateral cooperation in a variety of areas and cementing friendship between the two peoples.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin described Chávez as “a brave and very thorough man who was able to showcase strong character to go through with his plans. He genuinely wanted to rid the country’s poor citizens of their plight and improve their lives. Chávez became the symbol of independence throughout Latin America while he was still alive. He’s joined the legendary ranks of Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara.”
Chávez was particularly remembered in the small states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which, with Russian support, successfully declared their independence from the pro-imperialist Georgian regime after a vicious assault by the latter in 2008. Along with Sandinista Nicaragua, Venezuela was among just a handful of countries that joined Russia in officially recognising the two states.
At a funeral rally in the South Ossetian capital Tskinvali, prominent speakers, in the words of the Eurasianet website, “took turns to remember the Chávez they knew, the Chávez they loved, and queued to sign a memorial book to be sent to Caracas. The mourners said they were forever thankful to the Bolivarian revolutionary for standing up to the West and recognising South Ossetia’s … independence from Georgia. ‘Since then, the people and the president of Venezuela have become close friends to us,’ declared President Leonid Tibolov.”
Across the border in the North Ossetian republic of the Russian Federation, a mountain has been named after Chávez. Thirty climbers reached its 3,695-metre peak to place his portrait and officially rename it.
Chávez was also mourned in a number of other former Soviet republics, but nowhere more so than in Belarus, which he had visited four times. “We have lost a close person and best friend who loved Belarus and always offered us a helping hand,” President Aleksandr Lukashenko declared.
Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic posthumously awarded Chávez the Order of the Republic of Serbia, his country’s highest national honour. Nikolic declared:
“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been left without its president, the Republic of Serbia without a sincere friend, the world political scene has been left without a great statesman, whose tolerance, understanding of the historical moment, endurance with which he fought for a better future for his people, contribution to peace in the region and the world, became the characteristics after which the name of Hugo Chávez will in the future be uttered with deep respect.”
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic added that Chávez was “a great friend of Serbia, an advocate of improved relations between our countries, and known for his principled position in favour of a solution of the Kosovo and Metohija problem in line with international law”.
In 2008, Chávez had firmly refused calls to recognise the supposed ‘independence’ of Kosovo, carved out of Serbia as a result of a Nato war of aggression, saying that yielding to US pressure on this issue would only lead to countless more future wars throughout the world.
Reflecting his unique standing in the world, some 33 heads of state and government attended Comrade Chávez’s funeral service, with many other countries sending high-level delegations – some 55 in all. They included the presidents of Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Iran, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay; the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as of Aruba and Curaçao, two remaining Dutch colonies in the Caribbean, whose independence was championed by Chávez; special envoys of the presidents of China, Russia (joined by the foreign minister and other leaders) and Serbia; the minister of presidential affairs of Syria; the deputy prime minister of Vietnam; government ministers from India and Sri Lanka; the former presidents of Honduras and Paraguay, who were overthrown in reactionary constitutional coups; and African-American civil-rights leader, Reverend Jesse Jackson.
The president of Argentina, along with the Brazilian president and her immediate predecessor, spent several days participating in memorial functions in Caracas immediately prior to the funeral service.
It is further worth noting that, in stark contrast to the right wing in Venezuela itself, the few remaining right-wing leaders in the rest of Latin America felt constrained to join the continent’s mourning, with the presidents of Chile and Colombia also attending the funeral service in Caracas.
For its part, the popular liberation movement in Colombia, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (Farc-EP) said that it thanked Chávez for “having allowed, with his help, that we are in Havana seeking for a political solution to the armed social conflict in Colombia”. Ivan Marquez, head of the Farc-EP delegation to the peace talks in Cuba with representatives of the Bogota government, added:
“We should turn this pain that overwhelms us into an incentive to continue with a task that was drawn up by the Venezuelan commander.”
Equally unprecedentedly, some 16 countries joined Venezuela in declaring official days of mourning. Bolivia and Nicaragua, together with Venezuela, observed seven official days of mourning (Venezuela later extended the mourning period to 11 days, to accommodate the millions who wished to bid farewell to their beloved leader). Among the countries observing three days of mourning were Belarus, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti and Uruguay, while days of mourning were also observed in Iran and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic among others. Gambia declared two national days of prayers for Chávez, respectively for the country’s muslim and christian communities.
Many heads of state paid personal tribute at the Venezuelan or Cuban diplomatic missions in their country, including the presidents of Cyprus, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
President Truong Tan Sang said the Vietnamese people would forever remember the deep sentiments that Chávez offered to the country and people of Vietnam, as well as his great contributions to tighten the friendship, solidarity and cooperation between their two countries. In a 2006 visit to Vietnam, Chávez had offered to help the country build its own oil refinery, so as to achieve energy independence, and repeatedly praised the Vietnamese people’s courageous war of liberation against US imperialism, saying that if the US should attack Venezuela, “we will do what Vietnam has done … resist and make them fail.”
All this represented what South African president Jacob Zuma said in his message of condolence: “Our hearts are with the family of President Chávez, as well as the government and the people of Venezuela, during this difficult time of mourning the departure of this respected revolutionary leader of Venezuela and indeed the entire progressive family of nations.”
Millions of Venezuelan citizens filed past Chávez’s coffin, as well as lining the route of his funeral procession and his journey to his final resting-place. Two tributes, much quoted in the international media, were typical, taken here from the Chinese news agency Xinhua:
“The fight to socialism will continue. We are the people of Hugo Chávez and we will continue the revolution,” said an old man in his sixties.
“Chávez doesn’t die, he still lives in our heart. We love you, all of us are Chávez,” said Juana Luna, a 16-year-old student.
Throughout the world, just as for a previous generation of young people it was the images of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh who represented incorruptible integrity and resolute anti-imperialism, so, for today’s young people, it is Hugo Chávez. As with Che, the image we will keep in our minds and our hearts of Hugo Chávez will be forever young. He will not grow old. Nor will the ideals, for which he stood and fought.
A beautiful life
In thinking of Hugo Chávez in the days since his passing, one’s mind is drawn to another leader who perfectly combined in his life and work the goals of national freedom and the emancipation of the working class.
In their last meeting, James Connolly, the leader of Dublin’s 1916 Easter Rising against British colonial rule, told his wife Lillie and his daughter Nora that he was to face a firing squad in a few hours. Lillie cried: “But your beautiful life, James, your beautiful life”, to which he replied: “And hasn’t it been a full life!”
Such also was the life of our Comrade Hugo Chávez – a beautiful life, a full life. A life spent serving the interests of the working class. A life dedicated without rest or selfish considerations to the finest cause in all the world: the fight for the liberation of mankind.
In the words of Nicaraguan President Comrade Daniel Ortega: “The flags of liberty that Chávez raised will keep waving … he lives in our promise to continue the revolution.”
Long live Comrade Hugo Chávez!
Condolences from CPGB-ML
The leadership of the CPGB-ML sent the following message of condolence to the acting president of Venezuela, Comrade Nicolas Maduro, the leadership of Chávez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Venezuelan people:
It was with feelings of deep and inconsolable grief that we learned the news that Comrade Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias, the respected and beloved leader of the Venezuelan revolution and the Venezuelan people and the true friend and comrade-in-arms of working and oppressed people everywhere, passed away after a long and tenacious battle against illness.
Please accept our most heartfelt condolences, which we offer to Comrade Chávez’s comrades, his family and loved ones and to all the Venezuelan people who are standing in their place, defending the gains of the revolution that Commandante Chávez has led with such distinction.
Comrade Chávez will be remembered forever as a towering figure in humanity’s fight for liberation. Thanks to him, millions of his compatriots were lifted out of poverty and were accorded their human dignity for the first time in history. Moreover, he proclaimed the goal of building a socialist society and set out on the road to achieve that.
Comrade Chávez was also a thoroughgoing internationalist. He stood in the vanguard of the struggle to win national liberation and social progress for the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean and through his leadership of such bodies as Alba and Petrocaribe turned what had long been the strategic backyard of US imperialism into a beacon of hope for a new world free of imperialism. A tireless fighter, he extended his utmost support to every country and every people fighting against US imperialism and its lackeys and for national liberation, social progress and socialism.
Comrade Chávez was a supremely brave individual. Imprisonment or the threat of death could not deter him. Indeed, he turned them into political weapons to advance the struggle. From the time when he was first diagnosed with cancer, he waged that final battle with the same bravery, determination and resilience with which he lived his entire life.
Comrade Chávez has left us too soon. He had so much more to give. But like all great revolutionary leaders he is more than an individual. As Comrade Evo Morales [President of Bolivia] has said, at this moment Hugo Chávez is more alive than ever and he will always be with us. The revolutionary people of Venezuela are the great people brought up by Commandante Chávez! We are confident that they will continue the struggle he led and will march forward towards the bright socialist future.
Comrades, at this moment in particular, we want to assure you of our full support and solidarity for the Venezuelan revolution and your anti-imperialist struggle for socialism. All our sympathies are with you.
ETERNAL GLORY TO COMRADE HUGO RAFAEL CHÁVEZ FRIAS!