The 5th anniversary of the death of legendary Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was marked in Venezuela and across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on Monday, March 5th, 2018 with a series of commemorative activities in several of the region’s cities and communities.
From Argentina, Bolivia and Cuba to Barbados, Saint Lucia and Venezuela itself, people gathered for public activities organized to pay tribute to and remember the Indigenous Venezuelan president who did so much to advance the struggle of Latin American and Caribbean people.
First tributes from the LAC region came during the 15th ALBA Summit in Caracas, which was attended by leaders of the regional grouping, including Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Cuba’s Raul Castro, Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
The summit, chaired by Chavez’s successor, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, not only paid tribute to the late leader, but also reiterated the support of the member-states for Venezuela to be allowed to determine its future and address its problems without external interference.
While the ALBA leaders met at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, separate activities were held across Venezuela in Chavez’s memory.
National TV stations featured programs recalling the upward words and deeds of the fallen leader, while individual provinces and communities, institutions and other entities organized similar commemorative activities.
Scores of overseas delegates also flew to Venezuela from across the world for the activities from the United States and Canada, Africa, Asia and Europe, as well as the LAC region.
Most South American states – including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay – were represented by political and solidarity movements and organizations, respectively.
Caribbean delegates came from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Surinam, among others.
Following visits to seven selected communities in Caracas, the international visiting delegates gathered at Chavez’s official burial site on a hill overlooking the city where an eternal flame burns in his memory.
There, the visitors queued in line to walk up to Chavez’s tomb and pay personal tribute to the late Venezuelan President, whose principles and policies were felt and admired across the region and the world.
Ahead of the Venezuela events, a well-attended public commemorative event was held in Argentina, where speakers reiterated their support for Venezuela’s self-determination and denounced the continuing external attacks, particularly by the United States, but also by states and entities near and far, from the European Union (EU) and Spain to Brazil and Colombia
A special statement was also issued by Barbados-based Caribbean political activist David Commissong showering honour and praise on Chavez’s works that resulted in the establishment of several pro-Caribbean entities, including the PetroCaribe entity that provided LAC countries with fuel products at extremely reasonable terms.
A special public tribute was also paid in Saint Lucia, where the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela hosted a Eucharistic Celebration offered by Catholic Monsignor Patrick Anthony at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Coubaril, Castries.
Venezuelan Ambassador Leiff Escalona referred to Chavez as “the tireless fighter for Independence, sovereignty and unity of our Great Land” and said he “personified great hope and gave way to the popular demand for social transformation.”
Ambassador Escalona said Chavez’s leadership “was characterized by his steady fight against poverty, in which he transformed national institutions, guaranteed public policies that would benefit the majority, recognized rights of the disabled, children and young people, women, the elderly, the Indigenous and people of all genres, breaking down the barriers of racism and classism.”
The diplomat, who is also Dean of the Diplomatic Corps on the island, recalled that Chavez “was passionate about social projects, he returned hope to the Venezuelan people, returning our pride…”
Ambassador Escalona said that Chavez ensured that “we recovered Bolivar, our national hero… and today, thanks to his daily orientations and teachings, we consider ourselves Bolivarian and Chavistas.”
She concluded, “We give thanks to God for giving us a man like Chavez, who dignified the lives of Venezuelans, and as such, we continue his legacy and plan for the development of our country.”
Also attending the religious tribute to Chavez were Saint Lucia’s Governor General Sir Neville Cenac, former Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy and former Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony, Castries Mayor Peterson Francis and other local dignitaries, including representatives of some LAC nations.
Meanwhile, activities in Caracas continued Tuesday with the inauguration of a special conference attended by some 400 international and national delegates to be attended and addressed by Venezuela’s Vice President Tarek El Aissami, President of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez, Information Minister Jose Rodriguez and Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Rodriguez.
Also to address the Tuesday conference is Adan Chavez, brother of the late president and Vice President responsible for International Relations of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
The conference also marked the opening of three days of official commemorative and solidarity activities across Venezuela under the theme ‘Todos Somos Venezuela’ (‘We All Are Venezuela’).
Earl Bousquet is a Saint Lucia-based veteran Caribbean journalist.