Coming from a poor family, Chavez ascended to the highest position in his country through elections and his charm as a charismatic leader who always rejected status quo and embraced the doctrine of social change for transforming the life of his masses in all sectors.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died last week after combating cancer for two years. With him a valiant socialist, who challenged capitalism and led a prolonged struggle against poverty and imperialism in his own country, has also departed.
But the tradition of grassroots politics that he established, intertwined with his unrelenting mission to uplift the masses from poverty and social degradation, will remain in Venezuela as his legacy for a long time to come.
Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias was born on July 28, 1954 in the rural town of Sabaneta. One of the six sons of his parents who were school teachers, he and his brother Adan grew up with their grandmother in a mud house.
Coming from a poor family, Chavez ascended to the highest position in his country through elections and his charm as a charismatic leader, who always rejected status quo and embraced the doctrine of social change, for transforming the life of his masses in all sectors.
An unsuccessful coup leader as a young army officer who tried to oust the government once, he later committed himself to the democratic process with a doctrine of revolutionary socialism.
His election in 1998 as a democratically elected president brought a new era of aspiration and sense of achievement in his country using natural resources and human assets at the same time.
He embarked upon a significant plan to transform Venezuela, a major oil producing country, into a politically and economically strong nation following the footsteps of his ideologue Simon Bolivar, a 19th century freedom fighter.
A firm believer in socialism in the aftermath of the Soviet Union when most of the world was heralding demise of the Left, he proved that with the commitment to your people you can transform their life restoring their dignity to live proudly and be part of society’s economic emancipation.
With 297.6 billion barrels, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, even greater than Saudi Arabia. Realizing the importance of this industry, Chavez consolidated the oil industry into the national company PDVSA taking control of it as a national asset.
The US oil companies, ousted from Venezuela by Chavez, are hopeful of regaining their control and assets back in the post Chavez Venezuela. Conoco Philips, a multinational energy corporation based in Houston, Texas, once a major stakeholder in Venezuela, has an eye on the prize. Two other oil companies, ExxonMobil and Chevron who also have high stakes in the country are hopeful of getting back into the business in Venezuela.
Chavez bolstered his nation’s economic development by raising oil production to a higher level and using this strength for the benefit of his people launching an array of social programs to boost education, employment, literacy and health facilities.
He redistributed the oil income for welfare programs what he called “Missions” opening medical clinics, schools, low price grocery stores, and revolutionizing the farming system with cooperative farms for the impoverished of his nation.
For him, socialism was the future of his country, not capitalism as he affirmed in one of his speeches to the nation in 2005:
“I am convinced — and I believe this conviction will be for the rest of my life — that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism. The path is socialism.”
He was a natural antagonist to the United States based on his ideological, not political or personal reasons. For these obvious reasons, he was also globally aligned with the arch-rival nations to the United States including Iran, China, Cuba and Russia. He used to bluntly call President Obama clown and President Bush devil in his speeches.
As he was challenging American policies in Latin America, US media launched smear campaigns blaming him and his comrades as dictators who tend to manipulate their masses for their own political gains.
On the contrary, however, US actor, film director and political activist Danny Gover who went to Venezuela to observe presidential election last October in which Hugo Chavez returned to presidency, paints a different picture in one of his articles published in Foreign Policy in Focus:
“More generally, life has improved for a greater number of Venezuelans over the last decade. Poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty cut by 70 percent. Free health care, education, and public pension programs have been greatly expanded, the minimum wage has steadily increased, and unemployment has dropped below 8 percent.”
The writer also substantiates that the election was transparent and democratic where 80% of people used their right to vote without any manipulation or corruption. Of these, 55% voted for Chavez.
Despite the allegations that he strengthened his power and made the executive branch the most powerful institution in the nation at the stake of other institutions such as the judiciary and media, he will be remembered as a dynamic socialist leader who never compromised with the forces of exploitation and status quo.
Vice President Nicolas Madura, a close confidante of Chavez, is expected to win the presidential election, constitutionally required to be held within 30 days.
Chances are, despite manoeuvrings of external forces to destabilize Venezuela, his policies will continue as long as his party remains committed to the ideological ambiance that he created, with the help of his popularity among the poor, the political structure he left behind and the ideological conventions he built.
In other words, Chavez is dead, not his legacy!