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Name: Catherina
Gender: Female
Member since: Mon Mar 3, 2008, 02:08 PM
Number of posts: 35,568

About Me

There are times that one wishes one was smarter than one is so that when one looks out at the world and sees the problems one wishes one knew the answers and I don\'t know the answers. I think sometimes one wishes one was dumber than one is so one doesn\'t have to look out into the world and see the pain that\'s out there and the horrible situations that are out there, and not know what to do - Bernie Sanders http://www.democraticunderground.com/128040277

Journal Archives

Venezuelan Youth Denounce Violent Opposition Plans

Venezuelan Youth Denounce Violent Opposition Plans

Caracas, Mar 26 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan youngsters denounced in this capital today the plans of opposition group Juventud Activa Venezuela Unida to generate violence and carry out destabilizing plans.

In a press conference at main Candelaria Square of Libertador municipality, the youth leader of the Socialist United Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Daniel Aponte, Said that JAVU plans a university strike on April 4 and tries to trigger discontent among students.

Members of the groups Danilo Anderson, Tupamaros, Frente Francisco de Miranda and Clase Media Socialista, as well as of parties Union Popular Venezolana and Podemos joined JAVU leader Aponte.

Aponte said that revolutionary youngsters will defend the Bolivarian, Socialist, anti-imperialist revolution in all forums and any circumstance, and ratified youth's support to Plan de la Patria (Homeland Plan), and stressed that they will work for the victory of Acting President Nicolas Maduro in the presidential elections of April 4.



Deadly Guanarito virus from Venezuela goes missing in Texas lab, officials say no need to panic

Deadly Guanarito virus from Venezuela goes missing in Texas lab, officials say no need to panic

A deadly virus that causes hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a Texas research lab, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) said in a statement on Monday.

A vial of Guanarito virus, which originates in Venezuela, was revealed as missing after a routine inspection conducted on March 20 and 21 at the Galveston National Laboratory on UTMB’s campus in Galveston, Tex.

Laboratory officials acknowledged the virus as a serious one, and Scott Weaver, the lab’s scientific director, told The Houston Chronicle Guanarito is an emerging disease that has already caused deadly outbreaks in Venezuela.


The vial, containing what is commonly referred to as Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever, was stored in a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory due to its potential to be weaponized as an aerosol spray. In some South American populations, patients who contracted the virus had a mortality rate of 33%.



Revolutionary rappers aim to work like Chavez

Revolutionary rappers aim to work like Chavez

Saturday, March 9, 2013
By Mat Ward

Hugo Chavez meets RodStarz of Rebel Diaz in the South Bronx. Photos: Eyeburgos Photography

Work Like Chavez
Rebel Diaz and Agent Of Change
Released March 9, 2013

For revolutionary rappers Rebel Diaz, the death of Hugo Chavez on March 5 came as a double blow.

The Venezuelan leader had helped the Chilean hip-hop duo set up their community arts and resistance centre in New York's South Bronx after he visited the area eight years ago.


"We've never had Bush or Obama visit the South Bronx,"
said G1, who fronts the group with his brother RodStarz. "But we had Chavez in the South Bronx in 2005."

During that visit, Chavez impressed residents by recalling obscure facts about each person’s home country. South Bronx Democrat Congressperson José Serrano, who had invited Chavez to the birthplace of hip-hop, said: “We expected, honestly, for him to walk through, say a few words and leave.

"Three and a half hours later, he was still there. ‘What’s the name of your organisation? What do they do? How are you funded? Why did you name it that?’ He did this table by table by table. Then he would quote a poet, artist, politician or historical figure from Panama, Mexico, the Dominican Republic or wherever the person was from.”

Two months after his visit, gallons of heating oil began arriving in the South Bronx, along with money for community projects including Rebel Diaz's resistance centre, which they named RDACBX.




Revolutionary rappers aim to Work Like Chavez

Rebel Diaz - Work Like Chavez (OFFICIAL VIDEO)


Who is Rebel Diaz do you ask? They are the sons of Chilean activists who now live in the Bronx. They're very big on the socially conscious hip hop scene and the majority of their songs are about social justice. This is their latest song, one of several for Chavez.
The intro sample is from legendary Venezuelan musician and activist, Alí Primera. The words translate as 'Those who die for life cannot be called dead. From this moment on, mourning is prohibited.'


I cant front im upset that they took our buildin
Next Thing the Comandante man I know they killed him
Something goin on I gotta read the signs
Somethin telling me that its about that time
Time to step it up cuz I still smell sulfur
Still smell the money in this capitalist culture
so im dedicatin verses to my boy jamil
He out there in Venezuela.. Frontline its real!
Hunts Point New York 2005
That’s when I realized the revolution soo alive
We aint never had a president come around mine
He brought OIL for the poor in the wintertime
He showed Love to the Bronx that’s called Solidarity
We show love back aint no politician scarin me
Anti imperialist til I we go delirious
The work is getting serious….that’s why they keep fearin us!!

Do the mathematics Hugo Chavez was the baddest
I gotta work Chavez… (2X)
In Caracas
El proceso va palante
In Chicago
El proceso va palante
In the South Bronx
El proceso va palante
it goes worldwide
El proceso va palante

This movement ain't defeated,
La lucha sigue
Dentro de todos esa rebeldia existe
La CIA comete crimen
Igual las ideas viven
Aqui el pueblo decide
No lo que los medios dicen
Queren parar una cultura alternativa
Fijate desde el bronx hasta america latina
Capitalista van
Capitalista vienen
Buscan tus bienes
Queren hacer lo que queren
Ahora decimos NO!
No al imperialismo,
Al neoliberlismo
Los bancos,
los ricos
Ni un millonario
Chavez fue solidaario
Ni Bush ni Obama llegaron a ayudarnos
No lo olvidamos,
Mas que Venezolano,
esto cruza frontera
Hip hop bolivariano
America unida
Como creamos ese frente?
Solidaridad por todo el continente!

released 09 March 2013

They're not into money and give most of their music away for free. Chavez funded their Arts Collective in the Bronx which served as a community center where a lot of education took place. Sadly, due to their politics and the gentrification of the Bronx, a result of capitalist greed, they were just violently evicted from the building after refusing to pay an extortionary increase in the rent that's making a lot of people in the Bronx homeless.

Venezuela, Chavez, and the Women’s Revolution

Venezuela, Chavez, and the Women’s Revolution

Photo of Cilia Flores Maduro


“I’ve told her, she won’t be the first lady, but first combatant, first patriot, first socialist, the first woman of the people of the barrios,” said Nicolas Maduro of his wife Cilia Flores. He is the revolution’s candidate for the 14 April presidential elections, following the passing of Hugo Chavez, and polls and the revolution’s electoral record suggest he is likely to win.

Under the Bolivarian revolution Flores, a lawyer and revolutionary, has been a legislator in the national assembly, head of the national assembly, part of the national leadership of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and more recently, the country’s attorney general. After growing up in Catia, one of the biggest barrios of Caracas, in the 1990s she dedicated herself to defending soldiers who had been involved in Chavez’s 1992 failed coup attempt.

In 1993 she founded the Bolivarian Human Rights Circle, joined the MBR-200, was part of the legal group which fought to get Chavez out of prison, and in 1997 participated in the founding of the MVR party, which brought Chavez to victory in 1998. Most people in Venezuela weren’t aware until recently that she was married to Maduro, and see her as a political leader in her own right.

When Maduro went to register as a candidate earlier in the month, he told the supporting crowd that Flores “won’t be a first lady, because that is a concept of high nobility ... she’s not a posh woman, she was born in slum housing with a dirt floor ... she won’t be a segundona (person in second place), she’ll be in the first line of combat, as the dignified and revolutionary woman that she is”.

Women are everywhere to be seen in this messy, problematic, beautiful and very joyful revolution. We lead and fill out the marches, we’re the vast majority of those elected as communal council representatives, we are the bulk of new teachers, doctors, and social media workers coming out of the Bolivarian University (Mission Sucre), and we’re much more visible (though far from equally represented) in the army, state governorships, mayoralties, and upper levels of the state institutions.

Perhaps that’s why Chavez publically declared himself a feminist so many times. It was a courageous thing to do, given how taboo and misunderstood the word is across Latin America. Although Chavez wasn’t totally clear on the origins of women’s oppression — more often loudly denouncing its symptoms over and over (domestic violence, the plastic surgery industry, income inequality) than its causes (social division of labour, publicity industry, the role of the Catholic Church etc) — he was clear that women were the energy, the hard work, the determination, and the numbers behind the revolution.

“The pains of the world are larger for women... and larger for women of the popular classes, of the poorer classes,” Chavez said in a speech last September. “If Christ carried a cross, how many crosses do the poor women of this earth carry every single day, every night... but at the same time they have so much to contribute”.

“That’s why I say that a real revolutionary, a socialist, must be truly feminist, because the liberation of the people is achieved through the liberation of women, the grasping of machismo, and that’s a cultural thing,” Chavez said that day.

The list of gains for women since he was first elected in 1998 is a long one. With general poverty halved and extreme poverty quartered, women have been the main beneficiaries of most social programs, from education, to health, housing, and pensions for the elderly. There has been a huge increase in women’s participation in the work force — from 43.3 per cent of women employed in 1996 to 81.2 per cent in 2002, and increasingly steadily since then. A women’s ministry was created, as was a women’s bank for low interest loans to women’s cooperatives, tribunals dealing specifically with violent crimes against women have been set up, and 18 types of violence against women recognised legally, maternity leave has increased and paternity leave created.

There’s a small payment for poor women and support for them for creating socio-productive projects. Pap smears and the pill are free (though the choice is limited). Breastfeeding has been widely promoted and has increased from 7 per cent in 2000 to 40 per cent in 2010. Bolivarian public schools provide free breakfast, lunch and snacks to kids – a big help to all mothers, especially single ones, and there are free childcare centres, though more are needed. Household work is legally recognised.

There’s also a lot of work to do yet for women and for sexual diversity; we need to fight to win the legalisation and free and quality provision of abortion, we need to get rid of the beauty contests and the commercialisation of women’s bodies, counter homophobia, provide more women’s refuges, and improve the courts and police response to gender crimes.

To argue however, that “Venezuela’s politics has been militarised” and that the “blurred” lines between civilians and military has “masculinised” politics, is to judge Venezuela according to Australian (first world, colonising) standards, as Emma Cannen did in her article "Chavez was the essence of a military man". Cannen brushed aside Venezuela and Latin America’s culture and context — the history of US intervention to get rid of socialist presidents, the genocide, the disappearances and torture that this continent has suffered when it tried to stop being the US’s obedient back yard, and the undeclared war on the poor.

The military here under previous governments was repressive, and the Communist Party was forced to go underground. However under the current government, the role of the military has changed (though there are still problems), and can’t be viewed as the same thing as the Australian police or army. The military and militia respond to the people’s needs, facilitate transport logistics, help during emergencies, and guarantee fair and free elections.

When my community council has needed a street to be closed off, tables and tents, or a band, the military has helped us out. They came to our meeting, noted down what we needed, and provided it. Without the military and the women of the barrios behind him in 2002, Chavez wouldn’t have survived the US backed coup against him.

Previously, the military was an exclusive male club, and women weren’t accepted in the operational units. However since 2000, women have been allowed to join, and last year 26 per cent of graduates from the military academies were women. Women also make up a large proportion of the civilian militias.

After Chavez died last week and millions of people queued up to say goodbye to him, one striking, beautiful photo did the rounds of media agencies the world over. It was the photo of a young militia woman touching her heart and raising her fist next to Chavez’s coffin. The woman in the photo was Lisseth Pavon, a 23-year old mother from a poor barrio in Tachira, and law student. When she heard the news of Chavez’s passing, she made the 25-hour journey to Caracas, then in the same clothes she’d been travelling in, with some water and an empanada, she waited 10 hours to visit Chavez’s remains.

“I got there and I wanted to touch him, to tell him that he took away our blindfolds ... Chavez hasn’t given me anything material, it’s about the power that he gave to us,” she told Aporrea.org.

Now that Chavez has gone, everyone involved in the revolution is clear that “we are Chavez”, meaning we have to take on his example, tireless work, initiative, commitment, and passion. The face of this revolution is the people now; it is young women like Lisseth.

Source: New Matilda


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Correa Condemns U.S. Blockade of Cuba at Inter-Parliamentary Meeting

Correa Condemns U.S. Blockade of Cuba at Inter-Parliamentary Meeting

Por Pedro Rioseco

Quito, Mar 23 (Prensa Latina) Speaking at the opening session of the 128th Assembly of the World Inter-Parliamentarian Union (IPU), being held here, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa denounced the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which has been condemned 21 consecutive times at the United Nations.

In a speech interrupted by ovations by some 1,500 parliamentarians from 121 countries, Correa pointed out that unfortunately, historic human rights bodies have become political instruments of persecution of progressive governments.

Precisely, the reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Commission (IACHR), which he described as totally dominated by hegemonic countries and NGOs, were discussed on Friday in Washington. They are dominated by capital, behind enterprises dedicated to communication, and the IACHR has become an echo of the worst mercantilist media, he stressed.


A blockade, he added, that has been condemned nothing less than 21 times (every year from 1992 to 2012) by almost all member countries of the United Nations, the latest condemnation was in October 2012 by 188 of 193 member countries.



More quotes

- These things have to be said; let's stop looking the other way, let's stop keeping it to ourselves in light of these barbarities.

- The blockade of Cuba is, undoubtedly, the worst violation of international law, inter-American law and human rights in our continent, but it is not even included in the IACHR annual reports

- While applying the law and taking a cunning journalist to court is considered an attack on human rights, nothing is said about the blockade of Cuba or the tortures in the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo

- Ecuador will no longer accept that shameless neo-colonialism, we cannot accept that kind of situations

- We could also wonder what the OAS is good for if it cannot even declare itself about such crucial problems such as that of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, seized from Argentina by force in the 19th century.

- The countries that talk most about human rights are those that have not signed the international treaties on the issue

- The world order is not only unfair, it is immoral, and the most aberrant stances are supported for the benefit of capital, above all the financial one.

- That is the main challenge faced by humankind in the 21st century: capital or human beings, and the parliamentarians of the planet can legislate so that in the end, justice is not merely convenient for the strongest


Uruguay Requests to Join SUCRE Regional Currency

Uruguay Requests to Join SUCRE Regional Currency


Mérida, 25th March 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Uruguay has requested to join the regional SUCRE currency, a move that will bring it into greater cooperation with the leftist ALBA alliance of Latin American nations.

The SUCRE is the regional currency used by the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) to allow for international transactions between member states without having to use the US dollar.

In effect since 2010, transactions in the virtual currency are conducted between central banks, while exporters are paid and importers charged in local currency. The system is used by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Although Uruguay is not a member of the ALBA, Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro submitted a formal request to join the Unitary System of Regional Compensation (SUCRE) while on a visit to Venezuela over the weekend.

Almagro argued that with Uruguay’s entrance into the SUCRE, “The molds of integration keep breaking, which must have an ever more Latin American dimension”.

In a meeting on Saturday between Almagro and Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua, the two countries also signed an agreement for the co-management of joint projects. These projects fall under the Venezuela – Uruguay Bi-National Commission, established in 2005.

In another accord, Venezuela agreed to allow the entrance of Uruguayan, Ecuadorian and Peruvian citizens into its territory bearing only a national identity card.

Venezuela and Uruguay also discussed the upcoming Mercosur summit on 28 June, where Venezuela will take over the pro tempore presidency of the regional trading bloc.

Almagro also took part in an event to commemorate late President Hugo Chavez on Sunday, after which he paid tribute to Chavez’s role in spearheading Latin America’s process of integration.

“We know the work that he contributed, the accumulation of policies in these times and how the positioning and strength of Latin America and South America in the world has consolidated. We know how this role has served to bring us closer to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe,” the Uruguayan diplomat said.


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Paraguayan Farmers to Occupy Land

Paraguayan Farmers to Occupy Land

Asuncion, Mar 25 (Prensa Latina) The National Farmer Federation (FNC) has announced an occupation of lands in view of the absence of a land reform.

The announcement comes after a mass protest Friday, involving thousands of farmers.

Teodolina Villalba, General Secretary of FNC, reviewed the 20 years of struggle by the organization, always ending in disappointment resulting from promises unfulfilled by traditional party-ruled governments.

That's why the farmer organization described as electoral lie the upcoming elections of April 21 now and called on members to annul their voting papers that day by writing on them the phrase Land Reform because according to Deputy General Secretary of FNC, Marcial Gomez, the current production model in Paraguay only benefits big business and agricultural exporters.


Modificado el ( lunes, 25 de marzo de 2013 )


"for this reason, we will go for recovering lands through necessary occupation to end abject poverty faced today by farmers and indigenous people."

Chávez Target of Media Scorn. His independence, help for Venezuela's poor will not be forgiven

In Death as in Life, Chávez Target of Media Scorn
His independence, help for Venezuela's poor will not be forgiven

Venezuela's left-wing populist president Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday, March 5, after a two-year battle with cancer. If world leaders were judged by the sheer volume of corporate media vitriol and misinformation about their policies, Chávez would be in a class of his own.

Shortly after Chávez won his first election in 1998, the U.S. government deemed him a threat to U.S. interests--an image U.S. media eagerly played up. When a coup engineered by Venezuelan business and media elites removed Chávez from power, many leading U.S outlets praised the move (Extra!, 6/02). The New York Times (4/13/02), calling it a "resignation," declared that "Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator." The Chicago Tribune (4/14/02) cheered the removal of a leader who had been "praising Osama bin Laden"--an absurdly false charge.

But that kind of reckless rhetoric was evidently permissible in media discussions about Chávez. Seven years later, CNN (1/15/09) hosted a discussion of Chávez with Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, where he and host John Roberts discussed whether or not Chávez was worse than Osama bin Laden. As Schoen put it, "He's given Al-Qaeda and Hamas an open invitation to come to Caracas."

There were almost no limits to overheated media rhetoric about Chávez. In a single news article, Newsweek (11/2/09) managed to compare him to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. (Chávez had built a movie studio, which is the sort of thing dictators apparently do.) ABC (World News, 10/7/12) called him a "fierce enemy of the United States," the Washington Post (10/16/06) an “autocratic demagogue." Fox News (12/5/05) said that his government was "really Communism"--despite the fact he was repeatedly returned to office in internationally certified elections (Extra!, 11-12/06) that Jimmy Carter deemed "the best in the world" (Guardian, 10/3/12).

Apart from the overheated claims about terrorism and his growing military threat to the region (FAIR Blog, 4/1/07), media often tried to make a simpler case: Chávez wasn't good for Venezuelans. The supposed economic ruin in Venezuela was a staple of the coverage. The Washington Post editorial page (1/5/13) complained of "the economic pain caused by Mr. Chávez," the man who has "wrecked their once-prosperous country." And a recent New York Times piece (12/13/12) tallied some of the hassles of daily life, declaring that

"such frustrations are typical in Venezuela, for rich and poor alike, and yet President Hugo Chávez has managed to stay in office for nearly 14 years, winning over a significant majority of the public with his outsize personality, his free-spending of state resources and his ability to convince Venezuelans that the Socialist revolution he envisions will make their lives better."

Of course, Venezuelans might feel that Chávez already had improved their lives (FAIR Blog, 12/13/12), with poverty cut in half, increased availability of food and healthcare, expanded educational opportunities and a real effort to build grassroots democratic institutions. (For more of this, read Greg Grandin's piece in the Nation--3/5/13.)

Those facts of Venezuelan life were not entirely unacknowledged by U.S. media. But these policies, reflecting new national priorities about who should benefit from the country's oil wealth, were treated as an unscrupulous ploy of Chávez's to curry favor with the poor. As the Washington Post (2/24/13) sneered, Chávez won "unconditional support from the poverty-stricken masses" by "doling out jobs to supporters and showering the poor with gifts." NPR's All Things Considered (3/5/13) told listeners that "millions of Venezuelans loved him because he showered the poor with social programs."

Buying the support of your own citizens is one thing; harboring negative feelings about the United States is something else entirely. As CBS Evening News (1/8/13) recently put it, "Chávez has made a career out of bashing the United States." But one wonders how friendly any U.S. political leaders would be toward a government that had supported their overthrow.

Though this is often treated as another Chávez conspiracy theory--"A central ideological pillar of Chávez's rule over 14 years has been to oppose Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington, which he accuses of trying to destabilize his government," the Washington Post (1/10/13) reported--the record of U.S. support for the coup leaders is clear.

As a State Department report (FAIR Blog, 1/11/13) acknowledged, various U.S. agencies had "provided training, institution building and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chávez government." The Bush administration declared its support for the short-lived coup regime, saying Chávez was "responsible for his fate" (Guardian, 4/21/09).

Of course, as with any country, there are aspects of Chávez's government that could be criticized. U.S. media attention to Venezuela's flaws, however, was obviously in service to an official agenda--as documented by FAIR's study (Extra!, 2/09) of editorials on human rights, which showed Venezuela getting much harsher criticism than the violent repression of the opposition in U.S.-allied Colombia.

Time.com's home page

In reporting Chávez's death, little had changed. "Venezuela Bully Chávez Is Dead," read the New York Post's front page (3/6/13); "Death of a Demogogue" was on Time's home page (3/6/13). CNN host Anderson Cooper (3/5/13) declared it was "the death of a world leader who made America see red, as in Fidel Castro red, Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chávez."
"The words 'Venezuelan strongman' so often preceded his name, and for good reason," declared NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams (3/5/13); on ABC World News (3/5/13), viewers were told that "many Americans viewed him as a dictator." That would be especially true if those Americans consumed corporate media.

The fact that U.S. elite interests are an overarching concern is not exactly hidden. Many reports on Chávez's passing were quick to note the country's oil wealth. NBC's Williams asserted, "All this matters a lot to the U.S., since Venezuela sits on top of a lot of oil and that's how this now gets interesting for the United States." MSNBC's Rachel Maddow (3/5/13) concurred: "I mean, Venezuela is a serious country in the world stage. It is sitting on the world's largest proven oil reserves."

And CNN's Barbara Starr (3/5/13) reported: "You're going to see a lot of U.S. businesses keep a very close eye on this transition in Venezuela. They're going to want to know that their investments are secure and that this is a stable country to invest in." Those U.S. businesses would seem to include its media corporations.


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Chavez's Death, Like His Life, Shows the World's Divisions

Chavez's Death, Like His Life, Shows the World's Divisions

By MARK WEISBROT - March 24th 2013

The unprecedented worldwide response to the death of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and especially in the Western Hemisphere, has brought into stark relief the "multi-polar" world that Chavez fought for. Fifty-five countries were represented at his funeral on March 8, 33 (including all of Latin America) by heads of state. Fourteen Latin American countries decreed official days of mourning - including the right-wing government of Chile. In contrast to the emotional outpourings, and the honour and respect that came from Latin American heads of state, the White House put out a cold and unfriendly statement that - to the horror of many Latin Americans - didn't even offer condolences.

It seems that the most demonised democratically elected president in world history had a lot of friends and admirers - and not just the "enemy states" like Iran or Syria that get first mention in US news reports. Now we are told that the outpouring of sympathy is all about Venezuela's oil, but no Saudi Arabian royal ever got this kind of love, while alive or dead.

Readers of the New York Times were probably surprised to learn from an op-ed last week by Lula da Silva, Brazil's popular former president, that he and Chavez were quite close and shared the same vision for Latin America. It was always true: in 2006, after Lula was re-elected, the first trip he took was to Venezuela to help Chavez campaign for his own re-election.

Let's face it: what Chavez said about Washington's role in the world was what all the left presidents - now the vast majority of South America - were thinking. And Chavez didn't just talk the talk: as Lula noted, he played a crucial role in the formation of UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations), CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations), and other efforts at regional integration.

"Perhaps his ideas will come to inspire young people in the future, much as the life of Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of Latin America, inspired Mr Chavez himself," wrote Lula.

Chavez transformed Latin America

Chavez was the first of what became a long line of democratically-elected left presidents who have transformed Latin America, and especially South America over the last 15 years, including Nestor and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina, Lula da Silva and then Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Jose "Pepe" Mujica in Uruguay and Mauricio Funes in El Salvador.

Before Chavez, democratically elected leftist presidents tended to end up like Salvador Allende of Chile - overthrown in a CIA-backed coup in 1973. Much of the Latin American left, including Chavez himself, was still sceptical of the electoral route to social change more than 20 years later, since the local elites, backed by Washington, had an extra-legal veto when they needed it.

Chavez was able to play a vital role in the "second independence" of South America because he was different from other heads of state in a number of important ways. I noticed this when I met him for the first time in April 2003. He seemed to treat everyone the same - from the people who served him lunch at the presidential palace to visitors whom he respected and admired. He talked a lot, but he was also a good listener.

I remember a dinner a few years later with more than 100 representatives of civil society groups throughout the Americas - activists working on debt cancellation, land reform and other struggles. Chavez sat and listened patiently, taking notes for an hour as the guests took turns describing their efforts. Then he went through his notes, and said: "Okay, here's where I think we might be able to help you." I couldn't imagine any other president doing that.

It wasn't fake - there wasn't anything fake about the man. He said what he was thinking, and of course that wasn't always appropriate for a head of state. But most Venezuelans loved his sincerity because it made him more real than other politicians, and therefore someone they could trust.

His attitude towards other governments was similar. Although he had big public fights with some governments, he almost never criticised another head of state unless he/she attacked him first. He successfully pursued good relations even with the right-wing Alvaro Uribe of Colombia for several years, until Uribe turned on him, which he saw (probably correctly) as Uribe acting on behalf of the United States. When Manuel Santos, who had been Uribe's defence minister, became president of Colombia in August 2010 and decided to pursue good relations with Chavez, he was pushing on an open door [PDF]. Relations were repaired immediately. Chavez was friendly to anyone who was friendly to him.

But it was more than his personality or search for alliances - which he needed in order to survive, after the Bush administration made clear its intention to overthrow him in 2002 (although it was almost never reported in the US media, the documentary evidence of Washington's involvement in the 2002 military coup against Chavez is quite strong). Chavez had a very solidaristic view of the world. He and his government had many policies that were not driven by the principle that "nations don't have friends, but only interests".

He saw the injustices in the international economic and political order the same way he saw the social injustices within Venezuela - as a social evil and something that could be successfully fought against. Why should the US and a handful of rich allies control the IMF and the World Bank? Or write the rules of commerce in the WTO, or in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (which Chavez helped defeat)? Venezuela didn't have any national interest in these struggles, since it is an oil exporter.

But Chavez thought they were important, and his ideas happened to coincide with what was happening in the world: it was rapidly becoming more multi-polar economically. For example, China is now, by the best economic estimates of its (purchasing power parity) exchange rate, already the largest economy in the world, yet it has very little voice in these most important multilateral institutions. Other developing countries have even less. Chavez's ideas therefore resonated increasingly in much of the world, and especially in Latin America.

Exclusively negative news on Venezuela

On the other hand, his tenure also shows the enormous power of the media in shaping public opinion. Most governments are quite familiar with his accomplishments, but because the Latin American and US media reported almost exclusively negative news on Venezuela for 14 years - sometimes grossly exaggerated as well - most people in the Western Hemisphere never learned even the basic facts about Venezuela or what Chavez was doing.

They do not know that, once Chavez got control over the oil industry, Venezuela's economy grew very well and poverty was reduced by half and extreme poverty by 70 percent. They don't know that most of these gains came from increased employment in the private sector, not "government handouts". They don't know that millions of Venezuelans got access to basic health care for the first time, and that education increased at all levels, with college enrollment doubling; or that public pensions rose from 500,000 to over two million.

The western media has mostly reported Venezuela as an economic and political failure. And most people don't know that Venezuela bears no resemblance to an "authoritarian state", and that most of the Venezuelan media is still opposed to the government.

They don't know what Chavez did for the hemisphere - not only the billions of dollars of aid distributed through Venezuela's Petrocaribe programme and other foreign aid, but also - as Lula explained - the role that he played in bringing about the unity and second independence of Latin America.

This independence is much more than a matter of national or regional pride, or one of the biggest geopolitical changes so far in the 21st century. It has had huge consequences for the people of Latin America, where the poverty rate fell from 42 percent at the beginning of the decade to 27 percent by 2009. It is difficult to imagine this kind of social and economic progress while the region was still under IMF/Washington tutelage; indeed the region as a whole barely had any per capita GDP growth at all from 1980-2000.

Most people in the Western Hemisphere have received a "Tea Party" view of Venezuela, with little difference between the liberal and right-wing media depiction of the country and its government. It is practically as one-sided as the view of the US that Soviet citizens got on state TV in the 1980s - people in unemployment lines and soup kitchens, poverty and police brutality. They had to find external news sources to know that most Americans still had a middle-class existence and a job, and among the highest living standards in the world.

So now there is a battle over defining Chavez's legacy - and there are many people trying to protect the hard-won gains that they made in demonising Chavez. For them, the outpouring of sympathy and respect for Chavez is a real problem.

It is fitting that the aftermath of Chavez's death should reflect not only the battles that he fought, but also the relations that he helped change. During his 14 years in office, the US lost most of its influence in Latin America, and especially South America. So it can be said with some certainty that in his battle with Washington, Chavez won. And with him, so did the region and the world. For that he will be forever remembered, honoured and respected - as he was on March 8 by most of the world.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, DC. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.


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