Argentina, Political

The Symbolism of Hugo Chávez

Sunday, March 10, 2013  

The death of Hugo Chávez brings a more long term perspective to contemporary Latin American politics. Sure this man wielded a big ego that at times did more harm than good, but his rise in Venezuela marked the beginning of a grand shift in the power structures in practically every Latin American country.

Today no one disputes the importance of Brazil economically and politically, as well as the rise of other countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Ecuador. But not very long ago, these countries, though rich in resources, had no voice of their own and were not autonomous. Their politics and economics were controlled by powers in Europe and the USA. In most cases, for centuries, the ample resources of see countries did little to improve the lives of the average person but more to subsidize foreign interests at the expense of liberties and living standard of their citizens. (There is an important book read by all school children in Argentina that documents this history.)

Today, with the imperialist dominance diminishing, things like foreign debt, claims of fascism or communism, and other methods are used as a wedge against the rise of Latin American countries. This is a threat to the USA and seen European countries, because subjugated, those countries have been a source if easy money for too long.

Hugo Chavez in Venezuela,  Lula da Silva in Brazil and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina led the emergence of a truly South American politic for the first time in modern history, not one imposed by European or North American powers. Domestically, much is being been done to return to local control of their economies, to reduce poverty, and to guarantee human rights. Success is mixed, but the overall direction has been maintained and has expanded to more countries.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East and Africa there are countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria who are going through revolutions for similar reasons, but with much more bloodshed. For the past 15 years Latin America has also been evolving, but with very little bloodshed. (However, there have been recent political coups d’état against progressive governments in Paraguay and Honduras.) Workers are gaining more say and rights, as do all citizens, and industries are more and more contributing to the wealth of their respective countries than to foreign multinational exploitative interests.

Not all is perfect in Latin American countries, much corruption persists and many citizens are not so comfortable with this change–like children who do not want to disobey a domineering parent–but real democracy is a new phenomenon as is the political autonomy of any Latin American country. Think about it, where is there a perfect democracy free of corruption and mistakes? (It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. –Winston Churchill)

In this context, we could recognize Hugo Chávez as a hero on par with his heroes Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. He is a symbol of a dramatic large-scale revolution, but a quiet peaceful one that continues today.

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