Hugo Chavez, R.I.P. - Leader Broke Venezuela Out of America's Imperial Orbit, Threw Neoliberal 'Economics' in the Trash
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Venezuela has announced seven days of mourning for its president, Hugo Chávez, who has died at the age of 58. Chávez died after a two-year battle with cancer that was first detected in his pelvis in June of 2011. He had suffered multiple complications following his latest operation in Cuba on December 11th and had not been seen in public since then. News of Chávez’s death was delivered Tuesday in an emotional address by Vice President Nicolás Maduro.
VICE PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] We accompanied his daughters, his brother, his family members, and we received the hardest and the most tragic of news that we will ever transmit to our people: At 4:25 in the afternoon today, the 5th of March, Comandante President Hugo Chávez Frías died.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hugo Chávez’s body will be taken in a procession to the Military Academy in Caracas, where it will lie in state until his funeral on Friday. Venezuela’s schools and universities have been shut for the week. Vice President Maduro will assume the presidency until an election is called within 30 days. Foreign Minister Elías Jaua told state television that Maduro would also be the candidate of Chávez’s governing United Socialist Party.
FOREIGN MINISTER ELÍAS JAUA: [translated] The president read the constitution correctly on December 8th during his last public speech that he was able to give, and it is clearly established what will follow and what we always defended. He is gone now, and the vice president assumes power, and we hold elections in the next 30 days. That’s the mandate that Hugo Chávez issued last December 8th, and he asked all of his Bolivarian revolutionaries to accompany Nicolás Maduro in this task. And that is what we are going to do.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was defeated by Chávez last October, offered his condolences to the president’s family and called for unity as the nation mourns.
HENRIQUE CAPRILES: [translated] To the government, who are burdened with the principal responsibility of guaranteeing coexistence in freedom and in peace, we hope, like all Venezuelans do, that they act in strict accordance with their constitutional duties. And our national armed forces should remain for all, because they belong to everyone, as it is in the constitution and its proud history.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Leaders from around the world sent their condolences to the Chávez family. Some allies, like Ecuador, called for national days of mourning in their own country. This is Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, but first this is Bolivian President Evo Morales remembering Chávez.
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] He fought for his country, for the great nation, like Simón Bolívar, a friend who gave his entire life for the liberation of the Venezuelan people, the people of Latin America and all anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists of the world.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] On many occasions, the Brazilian government did not completely agree with President Hugo Chávez. But today, as always, we must recognize that he was a great leader, an irreparable loss, and above all, a friend of Brazil, a friend of the Brazilian people.
PRESIDENT OLLANTA HUMALA: [translated] To the Venezuelan people, we wish to express our unity of reflection and our hope that things can progress in a passive manner with the cause of democracy in mind. We want to express our solidarity with the Venezuelan people, with the family of our friend, President Hugo Chávez Frías.
AMY GOODMAN: The presidents of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.
Here in the United States, President Obama called Chávez’s passing a "challenging time" for Venezuela. This comes as Vice President Maduro of Venezuela announced Tuesday he is expelling a U.S. embassy military attaché, accusing him of spying on the Venezuelan military and meeting with right-wing military officers in a plan to destabilize Venezuela. Maduro also said a "scientific commission" would look into Chávez’s death and the possibility his "historical enemies" had somehow induced his cancer.