Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Legacy of Hugo Chávez, the Redeemer

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

The Legacy of Hugo Chávez, the Redeemer

Article excerpt

When Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died in Marcii after losing a battle with cancer, there was wailing in the streets of Caracas and a blaring of car horns and rattling maracas celebrating his death in some Soudi florida communities.

The latter were predictable scenes in that southernmost U.S. area where many of die foreign self-exiled Venezuelans and expatriates from die Latin American region wait for the day when whoever their nemesis or whatever their troubles made them leave their home country will be avenged.

The Florida display seemed a bit macabre, liken to those dancing on the gl'ave of an enemy they judge lias finally received his comeuppance and is sure to rot in hell for all the grief anil despair he caused Uiem and other members of their community.

It was the opposite scene in the homeland where a large group of Venezuelans venerated him as a Godsend and displayed their sorrow openly over the passing of a man many considered a brave, compassionate leader who had the fortitude and filially the power to do doing something for the poor and neglected.

More than just president of all Venezuelans, he was regarded a champion of the discriminated and disenfranchised because of their color and background. Chavez was one of them, a pardo ?G mixed race. Tn Latin America, particularly among the criollo communities, that's usually the bottom of die social rung.

History will judge if Chavez was an egocentric nationalist bent on leading his country into chaos and ruin because of liis prejudices against the oligarclis and society's swells and the social and economic war he waged against them in die name of what he came to categorize as the Bolivarian movement or "socialism of die 21st century."

Chavez would have much better liked to be remembered - and better yet, venerated - as the second coming of South America's liberator, Simón Bolívar,

Chavez did not live long enough to accomplish this, but he made a good start in his 14 years as president and was beginning another six-year term in which he promised, for better or worse, more of the same.

There are contrasting ways to measure the worth and the achievements of a personality and leader like Chavez. Throughout its history, Latin America has had its share of military despots, demagogues and maniacal, corrupt leaders bent on pursuing their prejudices and in the process leading their country to ruin and anarchy before they· were eliminated.

There are Venezuelans in the country and in selfimposed exile who thought that of Chavez, but this is arguable although he did have his autocratic ways.

Chavez, democratically and freely elected, was a wannabe Bolivar who preached the "Bolivarism" reformation of his country and the deliverance of the poor and disenfranchised in his self-styled redeemer ways.

He venerated Bolivar's legacy to the point of ridicule by some of the Venezuelan community, usually his detractors who were careful to tread lightly on Ills political idiosyncrasies lest vengeance come crashing down on them.

In 2010, Chavez exhumed the remains of Bolivar in the National Pantheon in Caracas. To some, his reverence sounded a bit kooky, like having a conversation with bis mummified hero, and placing an empty chair next to Ills at cabinet meetings - which the ghost of Bolivar symbolically occupied,

Symbolism it might have been, but it served to cast Chavez in Bolivars image as die modern-day liberator of his people from noi only political bondage but also the social and economic, deprivations they had endured in the past from uncaring, corrupted administrations. …

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