By Salim Lamrani-Opera Mundi
President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013 of cancer at age 58, marked forever the history of Venezuela and Latin America.
1. Never in the history of Latin America, has a political leader had such incontestable democratic legitimacy. Since coming to power in 1999, there were 16 elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez won 15, the last on October 7, 2012. He defeated his rivals with a margin of 10-20 percentage points.
The following is a letter sent to the WSWS by a correspondent of the newspaper Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! raising concerns of their recent coverage of Hugo Chavez
I was appalled by the 8 March article on the World Socialist Website entitled 'Hugo Chavez and socialism' (see: www.wsws.org/en/
The article admits that there is 'popular support for the undeniable, albeit limited, improvements in social conditions for the country’s most impoverished layers under his presidency. This includes a halving of the poverty rate, which still remains above Latin America’s average.' In fact, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, Venezuela now has the third lowest levels of poverty in Latin America. When Chavez was first elected in 1998, poverty stood at 50.4%. By 2011 it had fallen to 27.8% and it continues to fall. About 2.5 million Venezuelans were helped out of extreme poverty in the same period and Venezuela achieved a drop in inequality 'unparalleled in Latin America' (Brookings Institute), falling over 2% year on year to achieve the lowest levels of inequality in the region (after Cuba).
Venezuela has wiped out illiteracy, brought infant mortality down from 25 to 13 per 1,000 live births, provided free health care and education for all, and built 700,000 units of social housing in the last two years alone. At a time when crisis-ridden imperialist states like Britain are viciously cutting back on welfare and attacking the right of working class people to housing, the Venezuelan revolution allows Marxists to show that there is an alternative.
The WSWS deserts Marxism and ignores these facts to back up its reactionary position that 'the “Bolivarian revolution” has done nothing to alter Venezuela’s status as a nation dependent upon and oppressed by imperialism.' Venezuelans know that this is a lie. For most of the 20th Century Venezuela was ruled by a corrupt elite allied to imperialist oil interests. Venezuela is an oppressed nation fighting for national liberation and socialism. The WSWS assertion that Chavez was a 'bourgeois nationalist' is not only false, but ignores the central point. As Lenin wrote in 1914, 'The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed against oppression, and it is this content that we unconditionally support'. The movement towards socialism is driven by the oppressed people of Venezuela and found its expression in the revolutionary leadership of Hugo Chavez.
The WSWS fails to identify where support for Chavez came from. It is the working class which has directly radicalised the revolutionary process, from defeating the imperialist-backed coup in 2002 to the growth of communas and new forms of socialist democracy. The WSWS is right to say that 'the class struggle in Venezuela and throughout Latin America will intensify under the impact of the deepening global capitalist crisis' but sees the only prospect for socialism as through setting up local branches of its own Trotskyist trend. But the Venezuelan people are fighting in the real world. In continuing their struggle after the death of their heroic leader, they have the support of socialist Cuba and revolutionary movements throughout Latin America. They have the solidarity of oppressed people from Palestine to Greece. By attacking the achievements of the Venezuelan people, the WSWS ends up on the side of socialism's enemies.
Louis Brehony, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!
Tim Walker asserts 'Extra-judicial killings by security agents have led Human Rights Watch to describe violent crime in Venezuela as “rampant”. A major reason for this is police corruption and a lack of accountability.' However Walker omits to mention the advances made and strategies developed in tackling this issue.
Gun crime, homicide and violence are very real problems in Venezuela and in Latin America as a whole. For decades, Venezuela has had 126 separate municipal and state police forces answerable only to the various mayors and governors of each of the country’s 23 states.
This has allowed the police to act with near impunity, especially in states and municipalities which have had opposition-aligned mayors and governors such as Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, which not only have the highest crime rates but also the largest presence of Colombian paramilitary forces.
To address this, 2006 saw National Police Reform Council conferences in each state, resulting in the creation of a National Bolivarian Police force (PNB) which began working with communal councils. The National Experimental University of Security was opened in 2010 with mandatory courses in human rights and social inequalities. Venezuela's crime rates will not be solved overnight, but in comparison to the US's refusal to better control arms in the hysterical debates surrounding the recent Sandy Hook school shooting, the Venezuelan government is actively attacking private gun ownership.
A ban on all commercial gun sales has been in effect since last February, when the government banned all imports of firearms excluding those for law enforcement, private security firms, military personnel and sports-people. The government’s disarmament commission seized 322,000 arms in 2012.
In reality crime and murder rates in Venezuela are used as a political football, laying the blame for every death in Venezuela at the feet of Chavez and the government. One NGO, the ‘Venezuela Observatory of Violence’, run by right-wing opposition member Roberto Briceno Leon, uses the media to calculate the number of deaths. In turn the international media quotes the NGO as a baseline for reporting the murder rate in Venezuela.
Before the election of Chavez, state violence dominated with notable massacres such as the Cantaura (1982) and Yumare (1986) massacres, culminating in the Caracazo massacre (1989) where the army violently killed up to 3000 people in uprisings against IMF-imposed price increases.
As Julio Cesar Velasco, speaking of his experiences in a community in central Caracas, points out: ‘Before President Chavez the media reported one out of every hundred killings.’ Now however, he argues, ‘the media reports every killing a hundred times’.
Sam McGill - Editor of www.vivavenezuela.co.uk
[RCG 10.03.13] Rory Carroll's piece on 8 March 'Hugo Chávez enshrined as ''comandante eternal'' is full of insinuations designed to undermine the concrete achievements of Venezuela. Carroll claims 'The Museum of the Revolution, which is to be his final resting place remains unfinished – a symbol, murmured critics, their voices still low amid febrile emotions, of the revolution's inability to build or maintain infrastructure'.
How can Carroll explain the following: In 2009 alone, over 91,155 computers were given to 2,729 schools; 86 pre-school centres and 44 schools were built; 2,872 schools benefited from maintenance work; 364 buildings were renovated and four new universities were built.
In February 2011, further investments in infrastructure were approved including $581.4 million to improve water services in Miranda state, and $321 million to repair water pipes and build treatment plants, pump stations, and storage tanks in and around Caracas. As part of the Great Housing Mission to build 3 million decent homes by 2019, over 250,000 units of social housing have been built since April 2011.
16 new hospitals were inaugurated in 2012 and September 2012 saw the launch of Satellite Miranda, the second satellite to be launched under the presidency of Hugo Chávez. Then there are the extensions to Caracas's metro system which provide transport links into the capital city for communities previously excluded.
The metro-cable systems to San Agustín and Mariche, the connecting Metro-bus network and the Los Teques metro train are already in operation. In construction, soon to be inaugurated are a cable train to Petare, the Guarenas-Guatire cable train and the new line 5 of the Caracas metro.
Far from being unable to build and maintain infrastructure, In the third quarter of 2012, construction drove the rise in GDP with significant growth of 12.6%.Venezuela's construction sector is booming.
At last night's vigil for Hugo Chavez the message was strong and clear: The struggle continues! Held at Belgrave Square, London, next to the statue of another great South American Independence hero, Simón Bolívar, over 200 people gathered with candles and banners to honour the struggle of a man who has given his life to build a better world.
Representatives from many Latin American embassies gave commemorative speeches including Alvaro Sanchez from the Venezuelan EmbassyAlicia Castro, Argentinian Ambassador, and Ana Alban Mora Ecudaorean Ambassador, amongst others.
As Rafael Correa, newly re-elected president of Ecuador touchingly remarked 'Those who die for life cannot be said to be dead. Hugo Chávez died for the life of his beloved Venezuela, for the life of a unified Latin America. He will be more alive than ever.'
[RCG 09.03.12] 'If we wish to build upon Chávez's legacy we must recognise that he had us rediscover the true history of our land and the legacy of Simon Bolivar, He taught us love and forgiveness. He taught us to love our history…Here you are, unconquered, pure, transparent, unique, true and always alive. Comandante, they couldn't defeat you and they will never, ever defeat us.' Nicolás Maduro
Delegations from 54 countries, including 32 heads of state, attended the official funeral service of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías on Friday 8 March at Caracas' military academy. Notably present were Latin American presidents Raul Castro (Cuba), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) alongside heads of State from Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatamala, Guyana, Haiti, Antigua and Barbuda, Honduras and Dominica. Highlighting Chávez's international impact, also in attendance were the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko and Greece's Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras.
Meanwhile millions have filled the streets of Caracas during the last few days, chanting 'Chávez vive! La lucha sigue! (Chávez lives, the fight continues). Crowds accompanied a seven-hour procession of his coffin from the military hospital to Caracas' military academy where his open casket will be displayed. Over two million Venezuelans have thus far queued for hours to pay their respects to Chávez and millions more wait, prompting the viewing to be extended for another seven days. His body will then be embalmed and displayed permanently in a Museum of the Revolution in Caracas.
[07.03.13 by www.newsunspun.org] The BBC maintained a strong a record of misleading reporting throughout the presidency of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died on Tuesday, following a two year battle with cancer. Yet today's article by Jon Kelly, 'Hugo Chavez and the era of anti-American bogeymen', takes a particularly spiteful slant on the issue of what is presented as 'Anti-Americanism' in Chavez's stance toward US foreign policy.
The premise of Kelly's analysis is that Hugo Chavez is simply the latest in a long list of 'bogeymen', identified by 'anti-American' sentiment. To illustrate the ideological company that Kelly suggests Chavez kept, his image appears on the same panel as murderous despots and terrorists such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden. This may have been normal practice for news organisations such as Fox News, but for the BBC it must be noted that this is a move particularly devoid of integrity, perhaps a new low.
Thursday March 7, 6pm
Amongst those saying a few words will be Alvaro Sanchez (Venezuelan Embassy,) Alicia Castro (Argentinian Ambassador,) Ana Alban Mora (Ecudaorean Ambassador,) Guisell Morales-Echaverry (Nicaraguan Charge D'Affaires,) Verónica Paola Melendres Argote (Bolivian Charge D'Affaires,) Nara Filipon (Brazilian Workers' Party,) Dr.Francisco Dominguez (VSC,) Billy Hayes (CWU General Secretary,) writer Seumas Milne, Professor Doreen Massey, Aaron Kiely (NUS Black Students' Officer,) Adrian Weir (Unite the Union,) & Jeremy Corbyn MP.
So Phil Gunson in his obituary of Hugo Chavez is now of the view that in 2002 ‘On 11 April, after hundreds of thousands had marched on the presidential palace to force him out and a score of civilians, from both sides, had been shot dead in circumstances never fully explained, senior military officers turned against him.’ This is not what he thought at the time when he wrote for the St Petersburg Times:
“’No one was expecting it. It was an ambush,’ said local journalist Eurídice Ledezma, who described seeing plain-clothed snipers firing from the roof of the Caracas town hall, a bastion of government supporters.” This was the source of the world-wide stories that Chavez supporters were entirely responsible for the attacks. Later that day Chavez was deposed.
Ledezma was both a friend (undisclosed) of Gunson and of Pedro Carmona who headed the short-lived post-coup government. Having written a story at the time which effectively pinned the blame for the ambush on Chavistas, I wonder why Gunson is so coy now? I think we should be told, since all the available credible evidence points to actions by agents provocateurs to provide a justification for the ensuing coup attempt. Gunson's journalism played a role in these events, and not a creditable one.