Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News - 2013-03-06
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a 2 year battle with cancer ending the socialist leaders 14 year rule of the South American country.
The flamboyant 58 year old leader had undergone 4 operations in Cuba for cancer plus extensive chemo treatment for the cancer that was first detected in his pelvic region in mid-2011. His last surgery was in December and he’s not been seen in public since.
The announcement was made last night by tearful vice president Nicholas Maduro. “At 4:25 in the afternoon today, on the 05th of March the commandanted president Hugo Chavez passed away,” announced Maduro.
Chavez had been arguably Latin America's most controversial leader. He often used his weekly radio show, "Alo, Presidente" (Hello, Mr President), not only to discuss political ideas and interview guests but also to dance, sing and rail against the United States.
The verbal grenades against Washington were not only lobbed from the airwaves. Chavez attacked the US whenever and wherever he deemed fit. Addressing a UN General Assembly in New York in 2006, he said he could still "smell sulphur" left behind by the "devil" George W Bush, the former US president, who had addressed the assembly 24 hours before
CNN’s Shasta Darlington reports, “This is definitely a tough world for a lot of Venezuelans. This is a man who was loved with a kind of religious like fervor by a lot of people. And in fact as recently as last week a poll indicated that 57% of Venezuelans still believed Chavez could have recovered and resume his responsibilities as president. This is despite the fact that he hadn’t been in public for almost three months ever since he went to Cuba to undergo cancer surgery.”
Speaking to Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat, Professor Thomashausen from the Institute of Comparative Law at the University of South Africa (UNISA) said that Chavez will be best remembered for defying the ‘mighty’ United States. “He was a man of humble origin, a worker. He rose to great fame, he had astounding electoral victories, but then he also became known for becoming a charmed president, for typical “big man” syndrome throwing around his might and money that nobody know where he had gotten from,” said Thomashausen.
Thomashausen adds that Chavez had many misguided policies which drove the Venezuelan economy to the brink of ruin. However he championed and made a difference to the lives of the poor. At one stage he defied the US to such an extent, he once proposed to supply cheaper fuel to the poor in America.
Chavez used his country's vast oil wealth to launch social programs that include state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs.
Thomashausen adds that Cuban President Fidel Castro never accepted Chavez because there were signs he would be embarrassed by Chavez’s attempts at practicing socialist rhetoric.
Under Fidel Castro's mentoring, Chavez became the face of the radical left in Latin America, with regular diatribes against US "imperialism" and the forging of ties with regimes at odds with Washington in Syria, Libya and Iran.
However most of the signs were just slogans and propaganda and Chavez was a spokesperson for many of the nations that were excluded from the mainstream of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “He tried to rally the support of all those. He tried in Africa without too much success,” said Thomashausen.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was saddened by Chavez’s death. “President Chavez spoke to the challenges and aspirations of the most vulnerable Venezuelans. "He provided decisive impetus for new regional integration movements, based on an eminently Latin American vision, while showing solidarity toward other nations in the hemisphere.
Meanwhile in a letter, addressed to the Acting President of Venezuela, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed grief over the loss of a "great soul” from the land of "crusaders for equality and liberalism”. Ahmadinejad said in the letter that the name of Hugo Chavez is familiar to all nations, reminding of purity, kindness, courage, and love for people.
"Hugo Chavez is the symbol for and successor of all the brave and revolutionaries in the proud, but grief-laden history of Latin America,” the President’s letter reads.
With the demise of Chavez, Thomashausen says he doubts that Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro will win in elections against Venezuela's opposition leader, Henrique Capriles. He says there is such a universal and strong sentiment throughout all the countries in the world in favour of freedom. People don’t want to be dictated to and they accept and believe the paradigm that everybody is all equal. So there is a fundamental cultural rejection from the world against despotism.
“So this notion of a couple or a group of people having the wisdom whether self-acquired or given by God to dictate to anyone else is being rejected. So I do believe in Venezuela we will also see a victory of a political proposition that is in favour of individual freedoms and also at least culturally, liberal society, said Thomashausen.