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BOTTOM LINE – Millions Mourn the Loss of Hugo Chávez, the People’s President

Guest Commentary by Lita Pezant

People across Latin America (and many in North America) are mourning the loss of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died last Tuesday, March 2, at the age of 58, after struggling with cancer over the last two years, and leading his nation for fourteen years. World leaders, including President Obama, sent their condolences, some even going straight to Caracas, Venezuela to mourn directly. People gathered in nations throughout South America, Central America, and the Caribbean; some mourners gathering at Venezuelan embassies, some in communities across the U.S.A, to pay their respects, hold vigils, and bring tributes to remember Hugo Chávez: a President of and for the People. Hugo Chávez was both loved and despised for helping to uplift the people of his nation. Elected four times with overwhelming majorities, the official U.S. government (home of the infamous ‘selected not elected’ Bush presidency) constantly questioned his presidential legitimacy and worked to overthrow him. Chávez’ response was to declare his own manhood and independence by daring to speak to world leaders that were not on the approved ‘guest list’: Castro (Cuba), Khadafi (Libya), Ahmadinejad (Iran), and Bolivia’s first native indigenous President Evo Morales. Upon his first election, Hugo Chávez inherited the reigns of a nation where 3% of the people owned 77% of the wealth — sound familiar? Chávez was a great president and a hardworking leader who changed the landscape of Venezuela, first insisting that oil corporations (who were reaping 87% profits from Venezuelan oil) return 30% to the government; and then he nationalized the resource. Compare that to Nigeria, where the U.S. has ‘good’ relations’ yet Shell Oil destroys the land with impunity, and protesting leaders are assassinated for questioning why the indigenous native tribes are receiving no benefits from the oil extracted from their lands. Tired of the World Bank ‘switcheroo’ that keeps Third World nations poor, Chávez worked with other Latin American presidents of Argentina and Brazil to develop the Bank of the South, so these countries could independently set their own financial standards and establish their own credit markets. Finding that he and other Latin leaders were also fed up with the imbalanced scope of U.S. Free Trade Agreements, Chávez joined Castro and Morales to form the People’s Trade Treaty for their respective nations. Chávez provided free public education to hundreds of thousands of children who had never had access to classrooms before his presidency. The U.S. has ‘good’ relations with Jamaica, but children still have to pay to go to school there. Before Chávez, millions of Indigenous and Black Venezuelans were never issued birth certificates or identification papers, effectively preventing them from full access to the rights of citizenship— that sound familiar too? Through it all, Chávez, a devout Christian, reached his hand out in friendship to those who would help him improve his nation and the quality of life for its people, and in turn he extended his hand in generosity to those in need across the globe. Chávez, along with Castro, offered food, supplies, fuel, and water purifiers to those devastated during the early aftermath of hurricane Katrina, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration – and we all know how quickly they came to the rescue. The generosity of Chávez and the Venezuelan people is also demonstrated in the provision of free heating oil to thousands of poor people in the United States through the Venezuelan oil company Citgo. Gosh come to think of it, Hugo Chávez probably helped more needy folks in the U.S. than the ‘Do Nothing’ 112th and 113th Congress combined. I for one was a little disappointed that a positive relationship that did not occur between President Chávez and our beloved President Obama. One might think that President Obama could have sought common ground with Chávez on at least a few things. Both were (and are) vilified, called out of name, and have had their rightful citizenship and birthright questioned without any basis in fact. Both were descendants of mixed ‘race’ parentage, and faced obstructionists who despised them for merely being the wrong color to be strong, independent, and ready for the reins of power. Both challenged conventional stereotypes to succeed. Both were elected on an emotional wave of the promise of Hope, seeking to rebuild their nations following economic disaster and massive financial and government corruption. Obama promised to end both wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) his predecessor started; and Chávez promised that he would never order troops to fire upon civilians as his predecessor did. Both held steadfast to those promises. Pointedly, each also established a form of universal health care during their respective first terms. Actually Chávez did his a bit quicker by trading with Castro for the provision of excellent Cuban medical and healthcare services — something many Black Americans have wanted access to for a long time — another example of ‘Free Trade’ not working for us. Unfortunately, U.S. foreign policy is rife with inconsistency and hypocrisy, designed to confuse, perplex, and control the citizenry. It is a pity how the ‘old ways’ of the ‘Cold War’ creep insidiously into the new millennium. Our government allows companies to do Billions in business with Communist China and Communist Vietnam, but continuously restricts, contains, and despises Cuba, home also, like Venezuela, to many of our brethren who are descendants of the African Diaspora and Transatlantic Slave Trade. U.S. backed corporations and their neo-con front men persistently grade the landscape for the continuing rape and pillage of the natural resources of Africa and Latin America, with complete disregard for their populations. Our community needs independent and focused Black voices to reshape a U.S. foreign policy to at least partly reflect the beliefs, hearts, and minds of most Black Americans. The Bush-Cheney industrial war complex has cost American taxpayers upwards of $800 Billion for the Iraq War, and close to $620 Billion so far for the War in Afghanistan. Congress won’t even begin an appropriations bill that would award a tenth of those amounts to put our people to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. Our community needs to take a page out of Chávez’ book, reclaim our man-and-woman- hood, and lay the groundwork for a new economic landscape that actually makes a return to our communities. Let us hope that ‘renewed and improved’ relationships with Venezuela is not just foreplay for renewed conjugal relations between U.S. neo-con corporate interests (‘Economic Hit Men’) and the Venezuelan elite, where only the poor and struggling workers are actually screwed. . . sound familiar? Rest in peace, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (WSSN 3/7/13)

About Wallace J. Allen

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