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  • Cindy Sheehan with late President Hugo Chavez

    Cindy Sheehan with late President Hugo Chavez | Photo: Reuters

Three years ago today, I wept for my friend Chavez and myself, for the people of Venezuela and the world.

In 2006, shortly after my first peace camp in Crawford, Texas to confront the person who I felt murdered my son Casey: George Bush, I was invited to Caracas, Venezuela to attend the World Social Forum.

Amazingly, at the time I really had no idea that the World Social Forum was about socialism, and I really didn’t know much more about President Hugo Chavez other than that he was a very vocal opponent of my opponents: George Bush and the U.S. Empire. That trip to Caracas was a whirlwind of speeches, meetings, and rallies.

At one point during the forum, I was pulled out of a meeting to go to the presidential palace, Miraflores, to meet with President Chavez. He gave a few of us a tour of some of the places where the U.S./C.I.A.-backed coup attempt occurred in April 2002 and a viewing of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” where our guide served as the “star” of the show. Chavez not only survived that coup attempt, because of his people, but also thrived as the socialist/anti-imperialist president of Venezuela for 14 years before his untimely passing.

That year in Caracas, I stumbled through my meetings and obligations, just knowing enough to survive the trip. However, after that trip to Venezuela, I was “greeted” with deep-seated hostility when I returned to "El Imperio," even from people whom I would consider on “the left.”

I was told, “Cindy, the enemy of your enemy is not your friend," “Hugo Chavez may hate George Bush like you do, but he is an oppressive, anti-American, Communist dictator ... blah, blah, blah!”

I was even hauled in before a leading “left-wing” blogger and roundly scolded for my “indiscretion.” “Your credibility will be damaged,” I was informed by this money-grubbing propagandist.

In the early years of my activism, I did a lot of things that I wasn’t ready for — and meeting this “anti-American, Communist dictator” was one of them. Because of the criticism from what passes as the left in the U.S., I started to do a little more research into Venezuelan politics, Hugo Chavez, and the Bolivarian Revolution. What I found after my studies greatly relieved me! I felt justified in defending Chavez and in my support for him and his policies.

For decades, Venezuela suffered under the boot of U.S. corporations, the C.I.A., and “leaders” who were dependent on, and supporters of, the rape and pillage of their country by the United States. The people were strangled by this system and rose up against it many times, but failed. However, the soil was being prepared for someone to step in and show the people of Venezuela a new way — an alternative to the stranglehold U.S. capitalistic imperialism had on their country.

So, in 2010, after I became what I like to call an “organic Marxist,” I wanted to go back to Venezuela to chat with Chavez about something more important than "Señor Peligro," Mr. Danger — George Bush (Chavez called me: "Señora Esperanza"). I wanted to witness a socialist revolution in progress. I wanted to be able to come back to the U.S. with evidence of a better way. I also felt it was urgent to dispel the propaganda about President Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution.

I received permission to interview the president and I raised the money to travel there with two camera operators. Our “mission” was to interview the president, and talk to people in the barrios of Venezuela to see how this revolution was affecting them, as well as to screw the oligarchy and opposition that still remain there — their sob-stories of “stolen” wealth to the socialist way are told over and over and over and over and over again in Venezuelan media and our media, too. It was very distressing to many of us who have been supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution when the opposition won an electoral majority in the National Assembly after its constant attacks on the revolution, with the help of tens of millions of dollars from the United States.

When I was in Caracas in 2010, I asked one formerly illiterate and disadvantaged person in the barrio of San Agustin what she thought about the amendment to the Bolivarian Republic’s new Constitution that allows Chavez to run for president without term limits. She said: “I hope he is president for life, we would die for him and the revolution.” In fact, many people did die in 2002 during the coup attempt defending and supporting Chavez.

Chavez loved the people of Venezuela — he owed them his life. But what, if anything, do we owe to such a person and his country that are being unfairly and unjustly demonized at every opportunity by my own country? We owe Chavez a balanced look at what he did with his dedication and love for the people of Venezuela, Latin America, and indeed, the world. We true revolutionaries should look at the life of Chavez and realize that change is not easy or painless. Here in the United States, many believe that all they have to do is go and vote for the least-worst imperialist and good things will come. Chavez taught us that to create change for all the people, we all must be educated, involved, and invested in our communities and political processes.

Revolution cannot be achieved or accomplished by one person, no matter how dedicated he/she is. Was the way of Chavez perfect? I don’t think so, but that’s the beauty of revolution — it’s a continuing process that takes everybody working together to achieve as close to perfection as mere humans can.

Now, reflecting on three years since his passing, and being with my own sister as she fights a cancer battle of her own, I am reminded that the dedication Chavez brought to fighting the cancer that eventually robbed him of life was only matched by his unrelenting dedication to the people of Venezuela. Chavez was young and vibrant, he was not ready to go. I can imagine his agony over leaving his children and grandchildren, and his beloved Venezuela. Three years ago today, the world lost a great human, father and leader. I was at a grocery store when I received a text telling me he had passed: I put my head on the cold door in the frozen food section and openly wept. I wondered if people were thinking I was crying because my favorite frozen pizza was not in stock. I didn't care. I replaced the items I had in my basket, quickly left and cried all the way on my walk home.

I wept for my friend Chavez and myself, for the people of Venezuela and the world.

In my opinion, Hugo Chavez was a figure of enormous significance in the 21st century and history will recognize not only his leadership, but his profound humanity and compassion for the oppressed and downtrodden. Venezuela is fortunate that it had such a strong personality, even for such a short time.

A person like Chavez is not born every day and his passing was a tragedy, but I believe his legacy and spirit are strong enough to inspire his people to eventually and completely create a nation that is by and for everyone.


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