Amsterdam News columnist Icepick Slim reveals the unseen side of the criticized Venezuelan leader
Local reactions on the legacy of Hugo Chávez, 58, expressed gratitude for the progressive Venezuelan President’s non-compromising stance against foreign forces. The courageous leader succumbed to the effects of cancer on March 5th and was funeralised the following Friday in Caracas.
“President Chávez was a true people’s leader, and not a tool of international capitalism or imperialism,” contends W.A.D.U. [World Afrikan Diaspora Union] President, Dr. Leonard Jeffries. “Too many leaders in the so-called third-world nations have been propped-up by the system of white supremacy, and have continued the super-exploitation of their people. Chávez, fortunately, was part of the great awakening that’s been happening in Latin America, particularly over the last 20 years, where progressive leaders are emerging.”
After a failed February 1992 coup, the militant Chávez was imprisoned, released years later, regrouped, and was democratically elected Venezuela’s President in late 1998. He immediately began mass socio-political reform, rewrote Venezuela’s Constitution and implemented a Socialist system which distributes the country’s resources amongst its citizens more equally.
“Every day I become more convinced, there is no doubt in my mind, as many intellectuals have said, that it is necessary to transcend capitalism… but capitalism cannot be transcended through capitalism itself; it must be done through socialism, true socialism, with equality and justice. I’m also convinced that it is possible to do it under democracy, but not in the type of democracy being imposed by Washington,” Chavez declared.
According to government figures, the reformist lowered unemployment rates from 14.5% in 1999 to 7.6% by 2009, and reduced poverty from 23.4% to 8.5% during the same time span.
International Monetary Fund and World Bank figures show that Chávez brought down his country’s poverty level from 62% in 2003 to 29% in 2009; and lowered unemployment from 14.5% in 1999 to 7.6% a decade later. In 2005, he established PetroCaribe, an alliance that allows Caribbean member states to buy oil from state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) at preferential prices. His administration opened new embassies throughout Africa and created the Africa-South America summit (ASA) to help other South American countries foster better relations with African nations. Meanwhile, his administration’s collaboration with the Citizens Energy/CITGO Oil Heat Program provides free heating oil to low-income families in the U.S.
A 2002 coup-attempt, allegedly backed by George W. Bush, momentarily silenced Chávez, but the outspoken rebel eventually regained his position, and shot back while addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations, September 20th, 2006.
“The devil came here yesterday and it smells of sulfur still today,” Chávez claimed, making the sign of the cross, forming a prayer pose, glancing skyward, before continuing, “Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States… the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world.”
In 2005, the African/Indigenous leader visited the metropolitan area, negotiating affordable heating oil programs in various low-income communities, through CITGO.
“The world lost a great humanitarian. President Chávez was the champion of the poor, working-class internationally,” commented elected-activist, Charles Barron. “He came to NYC and provided oil to [poor communities] at a 40% discount, when no American oil company would do that.”
African scholar warrior James Small adds, “Chávez single-handedly reduced the influence of the U.S.’ imperialism and terrorism in South America in 14 years, where others haven’t been able to do it in 100 years. He showed how to use the nation’s wealth to solve its poverty issues, while still maintaining its economic and political integrity.”
Activist Omowale Clay shares similar sentiments: “Brothers like President Chávez give us the light at the end of the tunnel of our racist and imperialist oppression. He joins the legacy of our heroes we strive to honor by never giving up our fight to transfer the wealth of our labor and earth’s resources back to the people.”
Chávez’s health had been deteriorating in recent months, having undergone a fourth cancer surgery and chemotherapy treatment in Cuba this past December. Some suspect he was intentionally infected by conspiring forces.
“There’s no doubt that Commandante Chávez’s health came under attack by the enemy,” claimed Vice President Nicolas Maduro. “The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health.”
Maduro, who was sworn in as acting-president on March 8th, said a special commission would investigate how Chávez acquired the unspecified cancer that months of treatments failed to tame. Chávez, whose fourth presidential term began in January, had been one of the most vocal opponents of how the United Statees of America was exploiting indigenous people throughout the diaspora.
“He was an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist leader and it’s a great, great loss for the socialist revolution around the world,” determined Barron.
Small concludes: “You can’t kill the spirit of freedom… which he has imbued in his people. I’m sure his party will carry his policies forward to serve the people of Venezuela and Latin America. Viva Chávez! Be with your ancestors!! Be with your God!!!”
-Ice Pick Slim(@ICEPICKSLIM17)