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Homage to Hugo March 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in About Hugo Chávez, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger Hollander, March 6, 2013

images   A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds up a portrait of him while attending a rally in Caracas 000_mvd6447587_1349221653

I have lived for short periods of time amongst Cubans, for many years in Latin America, and most of my life in the United States and Canada.  I have lived as one of and in the middle classes, with very occasional personal contacts with social and economic elites, and with a lifetime of close association and solidarity with the various classes of dispossessed.  I think I understand the difference between capital and labor, between rich and poor, between oppressors and oppressed, between truth and lies.  And I think that I can understand both the trite and misinformed responses coming out of the North American corporate media as well as the overwhelming reaction of sadness and loss that the great majority of ordinary Latin Americans are experiencing over the death of Hugo Chávez.

Perhaps it is instructive to compare the two rivals: Chávez and Obama.  Whereas one loses count of the number of sides of the mouth out of which Obama speaks, and marvels at the capacity to lie with a straight face; Chávez was transparency and forthrightness incarnate, what you saw was what you got.  While the North American corporate media and political punditry demonized Chávez as dictatorial and rabidly anti-American (the man who gave free heating oil to poor New Englanders), apart from the Fox news and hypocritically tea partied and toxically neo-Fascist led religious right, Obama gets pretty much a free pass.

Consider that Hugo Chávez never killed hundreds of innocent civilians with drone missiles, never violated the very essence of international law by committing and enabling torture, never violated the most fundamental legal right of habeas corpus, never spied on his countrymen in direct violation of law, never drew and implemented up a list of targets for presidential assassination, never joined with the financial and corporate elites to privatize education, protect Wall Street white collar criminals and banksters, and give in entirely to the corrupt and blood-thirsty private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries in setting back a public universal health care plan for years if not decades.

But this is not about what Hugo Chávez didn’t do (or to vent my disgust with Obama), it is about what he did do and what that means to the oppressed of Latin America.  Although it is what most North Americans hear and think about him, his standing up to and developing independence from the political and economic hegemony of the United States may not be his most important achievement.  What he did that was most needed to be done was to stand up to the poisonous and inhuman rule of capital.  That he did this more rhetorically than in actual practice to me is not that important.  It is a rhetoric that strikes a chord with the vast majority of Latinos who suffer from poverty, hunger, lack of fresh water, health care, decent housing, and quality education.  In practice, as in Ecuador and Bolivia, he lead a government that for the first time in recent history was not in the back pocket of the moneyed elites, a government that took serious investment in health, education, infrastructure, housing and other social programs.   That the financing of social programs depended to a large degree on revenue from petroleum is a factor that does not negate the successes achieved in these areas.

What North Americans are not for the most part going to hear or understand are the emotional reactions that I am witnessing here in Ecuador.  When you are poor and struggling to survive on a day to day basis, when you are aware to some degree or another the injustices that are responsible for your daily suffering; then when there arises a person of influence and power and charisma and fluency who shines light and gives credibility to your deepest concerns, you are given the precious gift of hope, dignity and pride.

Hugo Chávez delivered such to not only the people of Venezuela, but to all of Latin America and throughout the world who suffer from the heartless hand of either national or international capital and the imperial governments who back them up with overwhelming economic and military power.

Hugo Chávez was not in my mind a genuine Marxist revolutionary.  I don’t think it is possible to be both genuinely revolutionary and at the same time administer a government in a world where the rule of capital is universal.  But to denigrate his achievements on that basis would be a case of unfairly splitting hairs.  Like Chile’s Allende his government was as revolutionary as could be expected, and like Allende he engendered the hatred of the owning classes and the cowardly and sycophantic media and political classes that serve them.

In death Hugo Chávez will become bigger even than he was in life; and that is both just and understandable.  For his greatest contribution, beyond the social achievements of his government and his courage in standing up to the Goliath Uncle Sam, is the honesty, humility and transparency he radiated as a human being and the hope and inspiration that his words and actions have given and will continue to give to those around the globe who struggle for justice, equality and dignity.

As millions of Latin Americans are saying today: “RIP, Comandante!”