Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mourning

Hundreds of thousands of people are reported in the streets of Caracas today (aerial footage here), and many across Latin America, mourning the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday at age 58.  President Chavez had been fighting cancer.  

Statements were released by world leaders, some of whom - for example, Bolivian President Evo Morales - appeared in the street procession today with Vice President Nicolas Maduro, accompanying the casket.  

NBC carries a photostream here showing many Venezuelans weeping.
 
The vice president stated on Tuesday that Venezuelan authorities believe the late president was poisoned (i.e. cancer induced) by U.S. government operatives.  At the same time, two U.S. Embassy military attach√©s were expelled for allegedly attempting to destabilize the country by culling right-wing military support in a plot against the Venezuelan government.  

The late president who was in office for 14 years survived a 2002 coup attempt later linked to the Bush administration. 

Below, video of formal statements regarding Hugo Chavez' death.

 

President Chavez decisively won reelection in October under an election system the Carter Center has identified as the best in the world, with the last election deemed by observers "a model of democracy."  Voter turn-out was massive.  

Vilified by the American mainstream press, Chavez was a more controversial figure in the United States, though he was wildly popular in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.

Widely known for redirecting Venezuela's oil wealth to the nation's impoverished majority, Chavez instituted programs that rapidly halved the national poverty rate, and decreased the extreme poverty rate by 2/3rds.  The late president implemented social missions aimed at eliminating illiteracy, and he brought high school and college educations within reach of large numbers of Venezuelans previously unserved - and without putting students under the staggering burdens of a student debtor system, as in the United States.  

Photo By: Franklin Reyes, MinCIChavez expanded social security for senior citizens, many of whom had no pensions, and no access to the system previously, providing a guaranteed income to older Venezuelans equivalent to the national minimum wage.

“This is the first time that senior citizens are receiving help, and in my case I need it, because I have always been self-employed and I don’t have a pension,” stated a Mr. Luis Araque from Caracas, back in January, 2011, and when the program was first made available to women over 55 and men over 60.

The Chavez government also instituted a universal health care system, while bringing thousands of doctors into the slums of Caracas to provide free, 24 hour per day medical care. His leadership is regarded as having "spawned a massive grassroots renaissance among millions of poor Venezuelans. They now participate in community groups that do everything from running soup kitchens to installing public water systems."
 
More discussion of the Chavez legacy here and here on Real News and Democracy Now! and here on Truthout, and here at theguardian.

Below, from arenamierda, David Rovic's Song For Hugo Chavez.


 
 

*Photo credit/top, courtesy of NBC/photographer: Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters/Supporters gather outside the hospital in Caracas/bottom, courtesy of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela/photographer: Franklin Reyes, MinCI/Learning to read and write through social missions instituted under Chavez.

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