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Hugo Chavez, R.I.P. - Leader Broke Venezuela Out of America's Imperial Orbit, Threw Neoliberal 'Economics' in the Trash

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Well, today we host a roundtable to look at the life of Hugo Chávez, his legacy and what may come next for Venezuela. We’ll begin in California, where we’re joined by Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College of Claremont, California, author of  The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela and the forthcoming  Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Your response to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez?

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Good morning.

I think it’s a tremendous loss for Venezuela and a loss for Latin America and as an advocate for South-South relationships. Just recall where Venezuela was in 1998. It had no real presence on the international stage. He had this oil-producing country that had 60 percent people living in poverty. Today, that has dramatically changed. Poverty has been reduced significantly within Venezuela, and you have a new sense, a new empowerment, a new feeling and a new sentiment, not only within Venezuela but within Latin America as a whole, and as an advocate of South-South relationships. And I think that, even in death, he will continue to be an important symbol for the very policies he advocated in life and for the integration of Latin America and its new role on the international stage.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to also welcome Eva Golinger. She has been well known as an American lawyer who has worked with the Venezuelan government and was close to President Chávez. Your reaction on this day after his death?

EVA GOLINGER: Well, it’s incredibly sad, of course. It’s a tremendous tragedy for Venezuela, for people of Venezuela, for people of Latin America, I would say also for people around the world who fight for social justice. Chávez was a champion for the poor, for social justice, against imperialism, against aggression, against war. He’s someone who has left an extraordinary legacy, not just in his own country, I think, but around the world. It’s an unbelievable tragedy that someone so young, with so much energy, with so much charisma, and with so much determination to continue building his great country and this concept of  la Patria Grande, the Great Homeland, in Latin America, would leave us so soon. So I think that Venezuelans and peoples around the world are going to mourn seriously his loss.

AMY GOODMAN: From two Venezuelan Americans, we go to Greg Grandin, also in our New York studio, currently a Cullman fellow at the New York Public Library, author of  Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. His most recent book,  Fordlandia, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. His new book is called  Empire of Necessity. It will be published later this year. Greg Grandin, talk about who Hugo Chávez was. Give us a little, short history of his life.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, in many ways, if you look at how his life tracks the history of Latin America, it’s quite amazing. He was born a few days after the 1954 coup in Guatemala that drove Jacobo Árbenz from power. And that coup, in many ways, culminated the subordination of Latin America to the United States in the Cold War.

AMY GOODMAN: Because the U.S. was involved.

GREG GRANDIN: The U.S. led that coup, yeah. And that happened in a few days. And his life pretty much ran the whole trajectory, from that moment forward, of U.S. power in Latin America. It saw the rise and extension of U.S.-backed militarism throughout the region, Venezuela a little bit less than some of the other more homicidal anti-communist countries, but nonetheless Venezuela was closely allied to the United States during the Cold War. He came of age under a political regime that was often held up as a little United States, in which two ideologically indistinguishable parties traded power back and forth between 1958, ’59 up through the 1990s.

 
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