Thursday, March 07, 2013

Unforgettable Chavez

Viva Chavez

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

The death of Hugo Chavez is a great blow to movement against imperial world order unleashed by powerful and greedy corporates. As Venezuelan president, Chavez instilled sense of self respect and dignity in the masses of Latin America. After Fidel Castro, he was the most influential leader of Latin America who inspired people world over.

The powerful president of Venezuela Mr Hugo Chavez passed away last night battling a two year long cancer. The man who rose to the highest office of his country passing through various phases and difficult childhood actually had huge fan following world over despite deep rooted racial prejudices against him in the American and European countries. It must be understood why Chavez has attracted extreme reactions world over. As the world moan over his death, we can analyze the entire perspective with the tribute that have started pouring in as the news broke in by the vice president of Venezuela on the state TV. The Latin American countries went into moaning on the death of hero who stood against the tyranny of powerful countries and taught them to stand up keeping their head high. Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and many other countries have stood together, formed coalition and tried to provide an alternative to the current economic social policies being pursued by the greedy transnational corporations who are the modern invaders with the help of powerful nations.  Evo Morales, Bolivian President said they felt "destroyed" by the news of the passing of his Chavez. "It hurts, but we must stand united in this process of liberation, not only of Venezuela but of the whole region..." Morales said. "Chavez is now more alive than ever", he added further.
The most important factor of Hugo Chavez is that he strengthened the legacy of Fidel Castro, the living legend from Cuba who challenged the might of United States of America and taught his country to live with preserving their resources. Chavez was a great admirer of Fidel Castro and tried to implement his vision by forming alliance with neighboring countries against a common threat. Today, all there is a breeze of freshness and change blowing in the entire Latin America where the US interventions were order of the day. Nobody can deny the fact that prior to Chavez, Venezuela was a non-entity at the international map but now people have got an identity and respect world over. That way, Chavez filled a sense of dignity and self-respect among his people and converted the entire system of governance more and more people centric much the chagrin of the western commentators who always found his rule as tyrannical violating human rights of the people. Yes, in his efforts to promote social justice and state socialism, Chavez might have angered many others who dominated the horizon of his country but then masses adored him for his actions.
A new wave of change is blowing in the entire Latin American world which feels betrayed by the successive American policies towards it. Several years back when I travelled to some remote part of Bolivia, I tested that feeling of anti- Americanism in the masses for they were enjoying. The urbanized cities are Americanised but the rural population, the ethnic communities who were just crushed before were founding their new sense of dignity and empowerment. It was not for nothing that Che Guevara, the much revered figure in the entire Latin American world was not given due space and respect by the American sponsored governments in Bolivia. There was not a single monument for a man who devoted his life to Bolivian people and was executed by the American sponsored forces as for them he was a criminal but for millions world over, Che is the ultimate icon of revolution. Today, the ethnic identities are asserting in these countries and that resulted in victory of president Moralis in Bolivia, who too is following the same path as shown by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and giving his ethnic communities a new sense of dignity and self-respect.
The western reactions on Chavez’s death are based on their future calculations, depending whether Venezuela would be able to hold together as one nation as it was till today. Former American President Jimmy Carter said, ‘Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.  President Chávez will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment. During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country's economic and political life.’
But Carter also mentioned the ‘divisions’ created by Chavez’s policies and said, ‘ At the same time, we recognize the divisions created in the drive towards change in Venezuela and the need for national healing. We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life.’
Problem here is that in the process of national reconstruction and social justice those who ruled and absorbed the national resources would always feel left out or sidelined. The modern Human Rights principles and ‘democratic’ laws actually save those in the name of human rights who have violated it to the most. We must not forget that Human Rights Principles have been used and misused by the western democracies according to their conveniences. Though there is little doubt that in the name of providing social justice, most of the governments in the third world countries actually violated the human rights of their opponents, arrested political leaders and executed writers, activists and journalists who they felt were the opponent to government’s policies or were exposing them. These oppressive systems actually led to the fall of many communist regimes in the 1990s in various parts of the world. It never meant that people did not like socialist secular values but the fact that people wanted to get rid of tyrannical regimes where one individual was supreme and all others were orphaned if that individual passed away. Human Right Watch documented the violation of human rights in Venezuela and stood to its ground even today when Hugo Chavez passed away. It says that ‘Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.
It added:
By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda.’
In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.’ President Chavez was very angry and expelled the director of Human Rights Watch José Miguel Vivanco,
after he issued a report criticizing the country's human rights record in 2008. This charge was rebuked by the intellectuals and academics of Venezuela vehemently.
The fact is that despite his short comings and violation of human rights here and there, Hugo Chavez was truly a world leader who tried to organize the poor nations against the growing tendencies of powerful nations to use their natural resources in the form of neo liberalism. Learning from Cuba, he reformed the health and education sector in his country. His boldness and unambiguity was never liked by the Western World as he could stand up and challenge George Bush in the UN general assembly by saying he was the biggest ‘devil’. Many of the western commentators may term these as harsh and undiplomatic words but then the American administration too has been using undignified terminology against their opponents. Even when he was highly critical of US policies particularly of its corporates, Chavez was exporting 90% its crude oil to United States only and praised President Obama suggesting he were a US citizen, he would have voted for Obama,
It has to be understood that when any political leaders work for people, he get enormously popular and that result in his ‘larger than life’ image. The fact is that all the third world countries are still living in ‘developing’ democracy where the institutions of democracy are still at very nascent stage and often used by the powerful elite for their own benefits. The leaders of the countries who emerge from the mass movement become tyrannical and bigger than the movement which result in uncertainty later on. Today, most of the countries have not developed democratic principles and are turning into self-serving despots. It is therefore important for the leaders of mass movement to prepare their generation and instill among their people the sense of democracy and decision making process should be made more transparent and discussed threadbare. Hugo Chavez redefined the governance in his country as he would invite people, academics, journalists to his decision making process and would speak on TV shows without a prepared script for hours and hours. We have heard how Fidel Castro is a vociferous reader who scan more than 100 newspapers a day even today and how he speak on any given subject with great authority, more than any world leader or an academic too. This tradition of knowledge in leadership is what makes a Castro or a Chavez legend.

In the absence of democratic structure or it percolating further at the grassroots, political leaders become bigger than the institutions must to the detriment of the process itself. Hugo Chavez was a revolutionary but still a human being. At the fag end of his life, his ideological boldness as a Marxist became questionable when he started following Christianity, met Pope and said, ‘ Today, the revolution is more alive than ever. I feel it, I live it, I touch it ... If Christ is with us, who can be against us? ‘If the people are with us, who can be against us?’ These are contradictions of our life and many people suffer from them and Chavez was no different to that. In political life, a political leader has to use contradictions of our life for his own purposes. It is sure that even when he invoked Christ’s name, he never used Christ for his political purposes.

Hugo Chavez is no more but he reminds us that even when you belong to a small country yet an inspiring leader can convert the country into greatness. It needs lot of intellectual, mental and moral strength to stand up against mighty forces and make people belief in their power. Chavez made people believe in themselves. For a country like India, Chavez is provide a great inspiration as how to make our people believe in state socialism as well as how can a country like India hold its head high against the neo colonialism being imported to us through powerful countries. As the biggest nation of South Asia, India can initiate the process of uniting the countries and make common cause with them. It will need a visionary and strong leadership to do so. Will India have such statesman and visionary who can stand up and challenge the hegemony of these greedy corporations and their mentors sitting in Europe and America?

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