Published by Alma
By Mario Esquivel/Prensa Latina
Commander Hugo Chavez, the undisputable leader of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, took a path during his life that led him from Sabaneta, in the state of Barinas, to the history of the deep changes currently taking place in that South American country.
Four years after his death, he is remembered for his singular personality, capable of capturing the most diverse popular sentiments, in addition to the influence of his military training in the school he enrolled in 1971.
Moreover, that process allowed him to visit faraway places throughout Venezuela and to learn about the critical situation in which millions of people survived.
A scholar in the work and thought of Liberator Simon Bolivar, Chavez also took postgraduate courses in Political Sciences that shaped and strengthened his early political and social interests.
Those interests were precisely the origin of the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement (MBR200), which he founded, along with other military officers, in 1982, amid a deteriorated socio-political situation in the country that led to the people’s uprising known as El Caracazo in 1989.
Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s was characterized by the crisis of the neoliberal model established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and enthroned by corrupt rulers who filled the country with millions of poor people, despite the huge wealth generated by oil exports.
Amid that situation, on February 4, 1992, Chavez led a civic-military rebellion against then President Carlos Andres Perez that failed ‘for now’, as he said when he publicly admitted his responsibility for that action, which was the starting point of a political process that would change the country.
As a result, Chavez spent two years in prison, from where he left with a stronger ideology and political thought, and founded the V Republic Movement.
After his release, he started a social and political tour throughout the country to attract students, professionals, small and medium business people, farmers, fishermen, miners, indigenous people, workers, women, youths, military officers, local leaders and most Venezuelan leftwing leaders to his cause.
He rescued Bolivar’s thought and called a Constituent Assembly to re-found the State, recover people’s and national sovereignty and transform the structure of social exclusion of the vast majorities.
That way, he ran for the presidency in the elections on December 6, 1998, and was elected by 56.2 percent of valid votes, thus becoming Venezuela’s 47th president and winning popular support with the second highest percentage by a presidential candidate in four decades.
A constituent referendum, the drawing up of a new Constitution to replace the one approved in 1961 and its approval by Parliament on December 15 marked the first year of Chavez’s term and laid the foundations for a deep process of political, economic and social reforms that is still under way today.
By virtue of the new Bolivarian Constitution, general elections were called for the next year to re-legitimize all posts elected by the people, including the president. Chavez was ratified as the head of State by 59.76 percent of votes.
However, the political battle was tough, because the measures taken by the government to strengthen sovereignty and consolidate independence, including the 2001 Act on Hydrocarbons, aimed at recovering the resources resulting from oil extraction, incited the country’s richest sectors against him with support, then and now, from the United States.
The brief coup d’état in April 2002 and the oil strike in late 2003 and early 2004 were the most serious efforts by Venezuela’s oligarchy, linked to foreign interests, to try to get rid of Chavez and regain the control of the country, as a result of their frustration over the resistance showed by the people and most military officers.
After winning the revocation referendum promoted by the opposition in 2004 and being reelected in the presidential elections on December 3, 2006, Chavez started his 2007-2012 term with growing support from most of the people, which regard him as the leader that released them from perennial exclusion and changed their lives.
In the October 7, 2012, voting, Chavez was reelected again for a new term from 2013 to 2019, with support from 55.07 percent of the people, winning 8,191,132 votes in a process in which voters’ participation reached 80.4 percent.
Life treated Chavez harshly. A serious illness achieved the goal that the most diverse rightwing forces failed to achieve, he died on March 5, 2013, but he remains in the hearts of all Latin Americans.