My Statement at Memorial for Hugo Chavez

Talk at Hugo Chávez Memorial
Peter Bohmer,
Olympia, Washington
March 13, 2013
Hugo Chávez Presente!
Hugo Chávez was reelected President of Venezuela on October 7, 2012 receiving 55% of the vote.  This was a significant victory with a sizable margin although smaller than Chávez’s margin in 2006.  The opposition candidate for president, Henrique Capriles Radonski received 44% of the vote.
Hugo Chávez had been dealing with serious bouts of cancer and received many treatments in Cuba. He    returned in late February, 2013 to Venezuela where his condition worsened and he died Tuesday afternoon, March 5th, 2013 in Caracas of a heart attack.  It is a tragic loss for the people of Venezuela, for Latin America and the world. Hugo Chávez presente!
He was a great man who has profoundly improved the lives of most Venezuelans, of  millions and millions of Latin Americans in the present,  and I am quite sure in the in the future for the better.  Chávez totally connected with the popular classes of Venezuela, the street vendors, the housewives, the workers, the campesinos, through the programs he started for education and health care for all, for reduced food prices, and job training and money for the mothers of the barrio, by his love, respect for, and listening to the people; and by his voicing so powerfully their aspirations. The revenues from oil for the first time benefitted the people of Venezuela as it funded the many social programs. He also sold oil at reduced prices to other countries in the Americas and heating oil at reduced prices to poor people in the South Bronx and on Indian reservations in South Dakota. Chavez’s initiation of and support for the development of popular power and a participatory democracy such as communal councils showed his trust and respect for the popular classes.  Hugo Chávez was central to the process of the inclusion of the formerly excluded–to poor people no longer being the scorned and becoming subjects of their history.
Chávez empowered the poor of Venezuela as they empowered him. The advance of the Venezuelan revolution is about the growing consciousness, power, self-organization, community, and rising income of the popular classes; and the innovative social programs for and often organized at the grassroots, aided and abetted by President Chávez. Hugo Chávez presente!
He was an original and creative thinker and doer; someone who was constantly experimenting with how to create a just and equal and self-determining society. In 2005, he named it, “Socialism for the   21st Century”—a socialism whose center was ethical and cooperative human beings in a society organized to meet human needs. Equally important was Chávez’s central role in challenging U.S. global domination in the hemisphere and globally, and furthering Latin American solidarity.  Chávez was a nationalist, a Latin-Americanist and an internationalist.
He made mistakes. He was too loyal to some of the people around him in Venezuela and perhaps too supportive of leaders around the world who challenged U.S. domination but was repressive in their own country. Chávez probably should have delegated more tasks and details to others, and should have made more of a priority the reduction of violent crime, and the reduction of corruption and bureaucracy.  He was human. His accomplishments totally outweighed his mistakes. Hugo Chávez presente!
He qualitatively changed Venezuela and the world for the better like few individuals have ever done.  Because of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela is on a path where there is the real possibility of a society that is both socialist and democratic, a participatory democracy and participatory 21st century socialism. Millions and millions of people in Venezuela and around the world and I mourn him.  Hugo Chávez presente!
Before the October, 2012 elections, Chávez had named Nicolás Maduro as the next Vice-President. He chose him as his successor.  Maduro, a former trade union leader was foreign minister in the Chávez administration from 2006 to 2012. He has been acting president the last few months, and now is the temporary President. The Venezuelan election commission set April 14, 2013 as the date for the new election to complete Chávez’s term.
Nicolás Maduro is comfortably ahead of the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski.  My guess is that Maduro will be elected President on April 14th, and that that there will be no major changes in Venezuelan policies or the Venezuelan model, domestically and internationally.  Nicolás Maduro   has been a strong supporter of Chávez’s policies and shares Chávez’s ideology and politics. Although Maduro does not have the charisma of Chávez nor the intense love by the Venezuelan people, Chávez’s designation of Maduro as his desired successor carries a lot of weight with those who supported Chávez. Hopefully, the population will get more involved in building popular power as they understand they no longer have Chávez to solve their problems. Hugo Chávez presente!    
Hugo Chávez lives on. Besides mourning him, let us honor Chávez by challenging U.S. domination and militarism abroad, by stopping U.S. intervention in Venezuela and in other countries like Bolivia who are becoming independent of the United States—politically and economically. Let us honor and remember and learn from the inspiring example of Hugo Chávez by ending poverty and homelessness in the United States, by transforming this country, and by constructing our own 21st century socialism in the United States. With the Venezuelan people, Hugo Chávez showed it can be done in Venezuela.  We can do it here.  Hugo Chávez Presente!

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