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(en) Venezuela, Libertarian reflections on the death of Hugo ChÃvez by Manu GarcÃa (ca)
Wed, 06 Mar 2013 15:42:10 +0200
We will no longer see one of the most important men in Latin America in the last decade.
It is impossible not to be somewhat shaken by this fact. We do not doubt that they will be
celebrating with the most expensive champagne in Chacao. Naturally that is not our
feeling, nor is it that of the Venezuelan masses. We can only feel solidarity with them in
their sense of grief over the passing of one who in recent years was their undisputed
leader and benchmark for the popular movement across the continent. ---- Late this
afternoon NicolÃs Maduro, on behalf of the government of Venezuela, informed the country
and the world of some news which though not unexpected nevertheless came as a shock: Hugo
Rafael ChÃvez FrÃas had died. ---- We will no longer see one of the most important men in
Latin America in the last decade. It is impossible not to be somewhat shaken by this fact.
A little history
February 27 last was another anniversary of the "Caracazo", the popular insurrection, the
rebellion of the poorest of the poor in the urban fringes, those forever excluded, those
whose repression at the hands of the (supposed) social democrat government Carlos AndrÃs
PÃrez was the beginning of the end of a Fourth Republic that drowned in its own vomit
after a binge of petrodollars, corruption, privatization among friends, cronyism,
subservience to transnational capital and the political, economic, social and cultural
exclusion of the majority of the country.
The repression, which resulted in thousands of deaths, caused the people to temporarily
leave the streets. But they never wanted to leave the stage of Venezuelan history. Of
course, the insurrection was not born from nothing. The distance between the official
country and the real country, the country of those above and the country of the common
people, grew wider and wider. Popular organization in the countryside and in the cities
seethed, the left advanced, the embers of the insurgency were not forgotten, growing
hatred towards all that the Fourth Republic meant. A hatred which, having accumulated
subterraneously through a thousand and one humiliations, one day surfaced as an erupting
In the barracks, more and more children of the people were becoming aware of what they
really were. Of their origins, of their class, of the role they were being called on to
play in the life of the nation. When on 27 February 1989 the Armed Forces were called to
defend the corrupt, hypocritical, hunger-creating government with fire and sword, a
government which over those days would prove to be a ruthless murderer, the most advanced
sectors of the Armed Forces, which had begun to come together in the Revolutionary
Bolivarian Movement-200, saw the rot had reached such an extent that it was necessary to
act. One young officer would become its leader - Hugo Rafael ChÃvez FrÃas, a zambo , a
provincial of popular extraction, educated a school which was one of the most egalitarian
and least influenced by the School of the Americas across the continent.
Three years later, on 4 February 1992, they would try to bring down a hated regime with
blood on its hands which, with all the means at its disposal, was refusing to die. They
failed. But we know that there are such things as Pyrrhic victories that eventually become
defeats, and failures that are just the prelude to future victories. And this was the
case. After being captured, Hugo ChÃvez appeared on national television, beaten but not
defeated, uttering the famous "... for now" that turned him into a point of reference for
thousands, transforming a tactical defeat into a strategic victory. His enemies wanted the
cameras to show him defeated and humiliated, publicly demonstrating his surrender, but he
turned the situation around, taking advantage of it to launch a plea for political and
social change and giving hope to millions of Venezuelans.
During his years in prison his prestige among the masses only grew and after his release
he became a prominent factor in the regroupment of the left, around his standing for
election. ChÃvez was no longer just a rebel officer, he was the repository of the hopes of
an entire nation, a people, organized, encouraged and empowered by the parties of the
Left. He never stopped thinking and mobilizing for their heartfelt demands, demands he was
partially able to obtain in 1999 with the Bolivarian Constitution and through the work of
government from then until today. We shall not dwell much on this point, since there is no
shortage of information about the substantial improvements in the indices of human
development, the increased levels of popular access to education, transportation,
healthcare and pensions, the recovery of public control over the economy, the attack on
the oil bureaucracy, controls on the banks, the concerns over food sovereignty, the
efforts to leave the rentier model and move towards a productive and diversified economy.
And, quite outstandingly, by ushering in a new geopolitical architecture.
ChÃvez and Latin America
During the years that ChÃvez was at the forefront of his government, Venezuela never
shrank from international solidarity. With Cuba, helping to break their isolation, efforts
that culminated in its joining, as it should, the community of American nations with full
rights, the OAS being increasingly considered irrelevant by Washington. With Haiti, and
the example of selfless and practical cooperation, of a technical, truly humane nature
contrasting with the military intervention and the petty, contemptible interest of other
States in the region, including some with supposedly progressive governments. With the
battles for peace with social justice in Colombia. With the understanding, integration and
political, energey, military, financial and food sovereignty, in other words, of Latin
America and its relationship as equals with the rest of the world.
In this field, as in others, all the shortcomings, omissions and errors that we could see
in his work (and of course there were some) are dwarfed when compared to his achievements,
openings and successes. In retrospect, the overall balance is more than positive.
The ChÃvez government extended the limits of the possible, both nationally and
internationally. Who could have imagined the CELAC  (with Cuba presiding!) in 1998,
when ChÃvez won his first elections? The OAS ignored and bypassed? A continental axis like
ALBA or UNASUR ? Economic measures running counter to the neo-liberal orthodoxy?
Sovereignty over natural resources? Regulations on the sacrosanct market against the
wishes of the oligarchies who benefit from it? Socialism back in the political vocabulary?
Washington's military doctrine increasingly cornered into its barracks?
We are not fetishists nor do we believe in providential figures in history. We are
materialists, aware that history is written by the people. But we cannot overlook nor
underestimate the importance that certain people have in the march of events, either
through their charisma, their ability to work or both. And the importance of the work that
ChÃvez has developed in the government of Venezuela in favour of Latin American
integration and the empowerment of its people is undeniable.
The Venezuelan people are not the same as they were under the Fourth Republic. They are
more politicized and organized. They are aware of how much they have gained in recent
years and, therefore, of what can be lost. Neo-liberalism and its champions are no longer
the political centre, which has shifted markedly to the left. The axis on which the public
agenda turns is no longer the same - this can be seen in the fact that even the opposition
candidate, a rich kid with a clearly right-wing past, had to dress up for the occasion as
a social democrat and compared himself with Lula in order not to obtain ridiculous results
at the polls.
The best pictures of the Bolivarian process can be had from among all the efforts going on
among those from below who helped to trigger everything, its greatest asset are these
mixed-race people, rebellious, creative, who express themselves in a multitude of ways,
inside and outside the "Chavista" structures, in the Corriente Revolucionaria BolÃvar y
Zamora, in the poor townships, in the alternative media, in the class-struggle trade
unions, in the people in arms, in the struggle for public spaces, for the oil surplus, for
national sovereignty, for culture, water, land, for health, for a decent life and Popular
Power. With or without ChÃvez they will go on, because the struggle of the Venezuelan
people did not begin or end with his death.
What does cause concern, however, is the excessive personalization of the process of
change. The Bolivarian process should consolidate itself into a collective leadership if
it is not to perish in the struggle for the legacy of the late president. The challenge is
to be really a process and Boliviarian and not only structure and "Chavism". Also worrying
is the excessive conformity to the parameters of the old State, which - we do not forget -
was not destroyed but reformed, and within which both the old and the new coexist: the old
judiciary, the old business network, the old politics, the old media, the old academics
and intellectuals, the old habits, prejudices and structures, and although some are
changing for the better, others remain or are even getting stronger. Both inside and
outside "Chavism". And you have to be aware that all that glitters is not gold. Any
government can attract to itself not to people with a vocation for public service, but
also "climbers", bloodsuckers and freeloaders, in number and degree proportional to the
privileges and "helping hands" they can get. And there is no doubt that almost 15 years in
office, and in a society of rentier, clientelist and bureaucratic capitalism, have
consequences in the form of sell-outs, nepotism and all sorts of favoritism.
Mind you, our criticism is not the type that attacks without proposing, which simply
negates and which proposes only isolation as an alternative. The sort which through an
excess of zeal just serves to demoralize and disarm in the face of the enemy. The sort
which lacks a feeling sense of history that says that "all governments are equal". No. We
know that you cannot expect to be immune to your surroundings and come out clean and
immaculate and spend when it comes to disputing hegemony and when the scenario you have to
fight in is not one that you choose but is chosen for you and the enemy has been moulding
it to his advantage for generations.
But that should not lead us into justifying the unjustifiable or into cynicism and "going
with the flow" in the name of some sort of political pragmatism. It should lead but to
working harder to develop effective tools with which to continue creating opportunities to
conquer the plebeian world and win hegemony from the ruling classes: strong, independent
and lively grassroots organizations against cooptation, cronyism and pork-barreling;
extensive debate against the tendency to decide between four walls; social participation
against unilateralism and orders and commands; popular election of candidates and official
positions against nominated appointments; socialist values ââversus capitalist vices,
responsibilities against privileges; the new against the old...
These are the attitudes, practices and tendencies that will have to spread to all levels
if Chavez' death is not to be just a party for the bourgeoisie and instead only another -
undoubtedly painful - episode in the upward march of the Venezuelan people to higher
levels of sovereignty and well-being.
Santiago de Chile, 5 March 2013
Translation by FdCA - International Relations Office.
1. A rich neighbourhood in Caracas.
2. Half Amerindian, half African.
3. Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a bloc consisting of 33 American
countries created in 2011 with the aim of increasing integration in the Americas and
reducing the influence of the USA.
4. Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, consisting of 8 Central and South American
countries. The ALBA is working towards developing a common currency, the sucre.
5. Union of South American Nations, modelled on the EU and consisting of 12 member states.
Related Link: http://periodico-solidaridad.blogspot.com
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