Shortly after the death of the Leader of the Bolivarian Revolution and President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, some US right-wing media outlets launched a campaign of slander describing him as a “divisive” and “authoritarian” ruler. Some even openly showed their hope that Chavez´s political project would soon fall apart.
However, as all the whole world could see, it is the US and Canadian governments, and not Chavez, who are isolated in the continent. Fellow presidents from throughout the Americas went to Caracas to attend the funeral and pay homage to Chavez. There, many of them reaffirmed their support for the ideals of social justice and regional development and independence that the Venezuelan leader supported during his whole life. Many messages of sympathy and solidarity arrived in Caracas from Mexico to Argentina.
Several Latin American leaders said that even in the absence of the Leader of the Boliviarian Revolution, they would keep on working together in order to develop Chavez´s ideals on Latin American independence and integration that have already been successfully implemented. Even the President of Colombia -a former enemy of Venezuela during the ruling of former President Alvaro Uribe-, José Manual Santos, praised the commitment of President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government to the peace process in his country.
In stark contrast to the warm tributes from the whole Latin America, statements by US President Barack Obama were seen as contemptful of Chávez, which is certainly consistent with past attitudes of his government towards Venezuela and Latin America´s growing independence. Obama spoke of “a new Chapter of the history of Venezuela” and, as if Venezuela was a dictatorial country, he added that the US “remains committed to policies that promote the democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights”. Obama did not offer his condolences for the death of Chavez either.
For her part, spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, told the media that her government was waiting for a decision by the Venezuelan authorities about the “transition”, that is, she was telling the Veneuelans that Washington wants them to backtrack and basically eliminate their independence and social achievements. However, in a statement, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry described Nuland´s insolent and disrespectful remarks as “a new, crude US interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs.”
At the same time, all these remarks by US top officials sparked profound outrage among Venezuelan people, who accompanied their president with affection and sorrow during the funeral. Obama´s vilification of Chavez offended the majority of Venezuelans, both those who voted to re-elect their president on October 7 and those who did not.
It is not the first time, however, that Obama has found himself isolated. At the 2012 OAS Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, the US and Canada were harshly criticized, especially for their refusal to allow Cuba to attend. It was a stark contrast to the previous summit in 2009, where Latin American leaders – including Chávez – welcomed Obama warmly because they wrongly thought that he could open a new era in the history of the US-Latin American relations.
For his part, Acting President Nicolas Maduro Maduro has promised to follow Chavez´s path and to confront “the Empire´s attempts to prevent Venezuela and Latin America´s independence from consolidating”. He recently announced that “some people in the Pentagon and the CIA” were conspiring as the election approaches in the South American country. “I am telling the absolute truth,” Maduro said, “because we have the testimonies and direct, first-hand information.”
He accused explicitly a group of former US officials -including Roger Noriega, Otto Reich and John Negroponte – of working to destabilize Venezuela. Shortly after, Maduro added that Venezuela had detected a plot from those same circles to kill his opponent in the election Henrique Capriles Randoski. The implication was that the attack on the right-wing candidate would be a provocation in order to create a chaos in the country. Maduro did not give more details.
Otto Reich was ambassador in Venezuela from 1986 to 1989 and Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. He was deeply involved in the 2002 anti-Chavez coup in Venezuela. He was a close friend to right-wing Venezuelan businessman and lawyer Robert Carmona-Borjas, who fled from the Latin American country shortly after the failure of the coup in which he was also heavily involved.
A second individual denounced by Maduro was Robert Noriega, US permanent representative to the Organization of American States, Noriega also supported the 2002 failed coup. After the Honduran military coup in 2009, Noriega became a lobbyist for the new regime. The third individual, John Negroponte, was Director of National Intelligence and was actively involved in the contra war against the Sandinist Nicaragua in the 1980s. It is worth pointing out that these three individuals have written numerous articles in which they called on the US administration to take a tough line against Venezuela.
All these events show that the Obama Administration continues to develop the same failed Cold War policies towards Latin America that George W. Bush put into practice. Washington keeps militarizing much of the continent and spending enormous amounts of cash in order to set up obedient governments, train armies and militias, deploy troops and build new military bases in countries such as Guatemala, Panama, Belize, Honduras or the Dominican Republic.
Re-imposing the old order
However, Chávez took Venezuelan people out of poverty. He used the nation´s oil revenues to provide funds for literacy programs and, in this way, more people were able to go to university. The Venezuelan government extended access to dental and health care and promoted a land and housing reform, subsidized supermarkets, and thousands of work cooperatives. In Venezuela, where much of the population had been living below the poverty line, these programs have had a huge impact. Nowadays, Venezuela´s gap between rich and poor is half of what it is in the United States. It has been rated “the fifth-happiest nation in the world” by Gallup.
In unity with his people, he was also able to free the country from the grips of the United States and was the promoter of a Latin American uprising against US domination. Chavez led the way to create to the Bank of the South in order to finance projects throughout Latin America and allow other nations to free themselves from the yoke of the IMF and the World Bank.
From local councils to factories, Venezuela has carried out one of the most successful experiments in direct democracy and worker-control in the world, which makes it a much more democratic country than the US itself, where poor and ordinary people are excluded from politics and decision-making, and the very wealthy rule the country through a managed and formal democracy that ensures that they will benefit most from the economy.
In this sense, while Chavez was a key figure in the creation and development of these programs and initiatives, it is the Venezuelan people that brought them to life and will keep them alive after his death. The slogan, “Chavez somos todos’- We are all Chavez- it is not mere words, but it expresses the consciousness of people, who want this process to go on.” Recently a Venezuelan told a foreign media: “The Americans and the opposition believe that if Chavez as a person disappears the revolution will over and the old order will be re-imposed, but we have to show them that it will not be like that.”