This statement was written by the organizers of the Hugo Chávez legacy event held on March 5 in New York City.
Greetings to friends, comrades and revolutionary internationalists of New York City. Thank you for being here.
We’re gathered here today in front of the statue of the Liberator of South America, Simón Bolívar, to commemorate the life and legacy of the eternal commander of the Bolivarian Revolution, Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, who transitioned 10 years ago on this day.
We are here to honor his legacy of service to the Venezuelan and Latin American people and the struggle against U.S. and Western imperialism. Revolutionaries in Venezuela and from around the world today are commemorating his commitment to internationalism through gatherings, performances and a pledge to redouble our efforts to defend the socialist values that Comrade Hugo Chávez upheld.
The Venezuelan people call these commemorations “10 años de la siembra” (10 years of the planting), because the supporters of the Bolivarian revolution understand that even though Commander Hugo Chávez is no longer with us physically, he planted the seeds of revolution in Venezuela. His spirit continues through the ongoing work to defend the gains of this 21st-century socialist revolution.
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was an Afro-Indigenous mestizo man, who came from humble beginnings in the Venezuelan llanos (fields) of Barinas. As a young military officer with the Venezuelan Army, he saw firsthand the atrocities committed under the Fourth Republic neoliberalist government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, whose government massacred thousands of Venezuelans during the popular Caracazo anti-neoliberal uprising of 1989.
In response, Commander Chávez and other young military officers organized an insurgency, known as the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200 (MBR-200), for a rebellion on Feb. 4, 1992.
The military rebellion failed. Chávez was arrested, and, before going to jail, he addressed the Venezuelan people on live television. He made two points. The first was that he took personal responsibility for the event. The second contained his most famous phrase, “Por ahora!” (For now!), expressing that “for now,” the uprising had been suspended. This “Por ahora” would be Chávez’s promise to his Venezuelan people on what would occur later.
During his two years in the Yare prison, with his legal team (led by Cilia Flores, spouse of Venezuela’s current president, Nicolás Maduro), Chávez brainstormed on building a civilian movement. After being released from prison in 1994, Chávez, along with Venezuela’s left-wing groups, such as the movement of the Fifth Republic and the Movement for Socialism, organized to win the presidential elections.
Chávez’s bloc successfully garnered the support of the Venezuelan masses, winning 56.2% of the vote and sending him to the Miraflores Palace in 1999.
Commander Chávez’s Fifth Republic government harnessed the revolutionary imagination of historic Venezuelan heritage figures Simón Bolívar, Simón Rodríguez and Ezequiel Zamora, giving birth to the Bolivarian Revolution, named after the liberator of our Americas.
Chávez vs. Monroe Doctrine
The Bolivarian Revolution would be a hegemonic counter to the Venezuelan oligarchy, the Washington Consensus and the Monroe Doctrine — a dreaded document that turns 200 years old this year. This 21st-century socialist Latin American revolution would ensure popular democracy for Venezuela’s Afro-descendants, Indigenous people, women, students and workers.
Following in the continental vision of Bolívar, Chávez’s Bolivarian Venezuela pushed for greater integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. He worked to establish integration mechanisms to increase cooperation through organizations such as ALBA-TCP, UNASUR and CELAC, which would be the maximum expression of Latin American and Caribbean continental integration because it brings together all the countries in the region, forging “La Patria Grande” (the greater homeland).
Chávez is beloved by the people of Venezuela for opposing U.S./European imperialism and implementing economic and social programs to lift millions of people out of poverty. He put into place a democracy where people have direct participation and are leading agents of their own transformation. Under his leadership, Venezuela nationalized its natural resources to benefit the people and made major advances in literacy and health outcomes.
Chávez is loved by the masses of people around the world, because he demonstrated that it is possible to build a society where the basic needs of human life are not commodified, where health care, food, housing and access to technology, sports and even to culture are available to all.
Chávez’s internationalism was another big component of his life. He showed international solidarity with the people of the Global South, who were being oppressed by imperial forces. He spoke out against the atrocities being committed against the Iraqi people after the George Bush administration’s invasion and condemned the state of Israel for its oppression of the Palestinian people.
He also advocated for Venezuela to have strong ties with other nations seeking sovereignty and struggling against U.S. imperialism across the Global South — countries such as Russia, China, Iran and several countries in Mother Africa.
Solidarity with South Bronx
Chávez even showed solidarity with the poor and oppressed from within the empire. An example is his 2005 visit to the South Bronx in New York City. The South Bronx, with a predominant demographic of African American and Latinos living there, is considered the third-poorest congressional district in the United States.
Commander Chávez came to the Black and Brown community and showed his solidarity with the people of the South Bronx by donating $5 million to grassroots groups and to pay for much-needed projects like restoring the Bronx River, after-school programs, literacy programs and food cooperatives.
In 2007, Chávez sent free heating oil to poor families in the South Bronx through Venezuela’s Citgo petroleum. Citgo delivered over $100 million worth of heating oil to more than 200,000 U.S. families in 23 states.
This is why we, as working-class New Yorkers, are deeply grateful and appreciate Commander Chávez for his solidarity with our people in the South Bronx.
Some 50 years later, after the fascist overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and the beginnings of neoliberalism worldwide, we look toward the Bolivarian Revolution as a beacon that shows a new world is possible for the wretched of the Earth, which is a gift that Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías left for all of us.
This is why today we stand in firm solidarity with Chávez’s legacy, President Nicolás Maduro Moros and the Venezuelan people in defending the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution and Venezuelan democracy from U.S. and European sabotage.
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