The era of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales was marked by revolutionary principles that transcended the region of Latin America. Together, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia presented a unified, inspirational front. Seven years since the demise of Hugo Chavez, at a time when Cuba is persisting in its revolution, Bolivia finds itself ensnared by the dynamics of a US-backed dictatorship, and Venezuela battles imperialist intervention in the country, the Bolivarian Revolution requires more than a temporary remembrance.
Across Latin America, the rise of right-wing dictatorships and US backing for democratically-elected right-wing fascist presidents is indicating the way forward for the masses. There needs to be a permanent reversal of the neoliberal policies to create inclusive societies based upon socialist principles. This means a return to the revolutionary movements that made anti-imperialist struggle a permanent feature.
After all, Chavez is not merely history. His political power was derived from the social movements in Venezuela which supported his socialist reforms. The 1992 coup attempt, in which Chavez, as a military officer, sought to overthrow the government of Carlos Perez, indicated the possibilities of change to the Venezuelan people. As he delivered his message to the people after the failed coup attempt, holding himself accountable for the lack of success, Chavez instigated change within the mind frame of the people. “Por ahora”, for now, the revolution had to be paused, but not the mobilisation, which saw Chavez triumph at the polls in 1998 to implement radical socialist change. Once again, the US was facing a reality already experienced in Chile – socialist revolution democratically chosen. And as in Chile, similar tactics were implemented, with different results. In 2002, a short-lived coup against Chavez was instigated. However, the military and the people mobilised against the right-wing interference and within 48 hours, the right-wing, backed by the US, were faced with a phenomenon they had not reckoned with. Destroying the Bolivarian Revolution would not merely require the deposing of its leader, but an unravelling of the mobilisation supporting Chavez and participating in the country’s revolution.
It is from these foundations that Chavez was able to defy imperialism in Venezuela, in Latin America, and within the international community. Divesting the country of the influence of the International Monetary Fund in 2007 was yet another step indicating the government’s willingness to eradicate exploitation of the country’s resources and turn, instead, to collaborative endeavours to politically and economically empower countries and people in Latin America.
At an international level, Chavez’s denunciations of US foreign policy were constant, as was his support for anti-colonial struggle, notably in Palestine. In 2010, Chavez described Israel as a genocidal entity. “One day the genocidal state of Israel will be put into its place, and let’s hope that a really democratic state emerges there, with which we can share a path and ideas.” Earlier in 2009, Venezuela under Chavez cut ties with Israel over the colonial power’s “Operation Cast Lead” aggression against the enclave in which white phosphorus was used against Palestinian civilians. However, Chavez’s support for Palestinians was not merely rhetorical. He engaged with Palestinians politically and diplomatically, as well as offering humanitarian aid and support – a stance which was also incorporated in Venezuelan politics after his death in 2013.
Chavez was about implementing socialist alternatives both as a duty and as a right – a process abhorred by US imperialism. The Bolivarian Revolution, like the Cuban Revolution, is a liberation process and a form of resistance to the empire. The Cuban academic and ambassador to Venezuela German Sanchez correctly describes the Bolivarian process thus: “Securing immediate benefits for the people and completing the political defeat of the opposition and its foreign allies were immediate tasks.” After Chavez, the same urgency to defeat imperialism remains.