March 6, 2013

Till his death he fought Western domination and foreign intrusion. Hugo Chavez was anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist who gave all his life for liberation of the Venezuelan people. Before he succumbed to cancer on March 5, the former Venezuelan President never backed away from his anti-American ideology and belief the United States has decided on his extinction come what may. He once said he wondered whether the United States could be infecting Latin American leaders with illness.

Before giving up the ghost, Chavez underwent invasive surgeries in Cuba to manage his cancer. For months, the state of his health became unknown to the world and Venezuelans. But when the Socialist leader missed his third inauguration as elected President, words went around the communist leader was dying and could no longer govern his people. The opposition seized on the opportunity to call for transparency on his health and asked that an election for a new leader be conducted.

With the passing of Chavez, Vice President Nicolas Maduro will take over as interim President. Despite opposition such a move is unconstitutional, since Chavez was never sworn in before his death. Venezuela has declared seven days of mourning and flags at its embassies worldwide are flying at half mast. The governments of Cuba and Ecuador, staunch supporters of Chavez declared days of mourning in respect for the leader they regard as champion of Latin America. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales called Chavez “a leader who gave all his life for the liberation of the Venezuelan people… of all the anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists of the world.”

Analysts believe the death of Chavez would transform Venezuela and reshape its foreign policy, especially its relations with the United States, which the former leader had criticized throughout his time as President. Some are in doubt such change would come while the current regime led by Vice President Maduro remains in place. Hours before public announcement of Chavez’s death, relations between Venezuela and the U.S reached another roadblock, when the nation indicated it was expelling two U.S. embassy officials accused of plotting to destabilize the nation.

The U.S. officials face allegations they collaborated with some in the Venezuelan military and encouraged them to take actions that could destabilize the regime. “We will not allow any foreign interference in our country.” “Do not think that the situation of pain over the health of Mr. Chavez will translate into weakness, said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua. Mending differences between both nations depends on the route the current regime takes. Continuation of Chavez’s programs and his anti-capitalists ideology will not bring to sight rosy relations between Venezuela and the United States.

The State department has denied all allegations it conspired to destabilize the regime of Chavez. “Notwithstanding the significant differences between our governments, we continue to believe it important to seek a functional and more productive relationship with Venezuela based on issues of mutual interests,” said State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell. “This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested in improved relationship.”

Chavez’s remains will go to a military academy in Caracas on Wednesday according to Venezuelan foreign office. There he will lie in state for three days before a State burial on Friday. Many around the world remember the last photo of the once controversial leader, taken with his two daughters, days after his return to Venezuela from cancer treatments in Cuba. It was a symbolic move of strength that signified love and affection in the midst of adversity.

To the less fortunate in Venezuela, Chavez was a leader who stood against economic powers of the West and used the nation’s resources for welfare of the poor. His socialist programs that helped bring down prices of basic necessities especially food and other social amenities would be remembered by his loyalists. To some in the United States, Chavez was a generous leader, who offered Venezuelan oil for free to heat homes of the poor in America during the cold winter, despite lost friendship between both nations.

Whether departure of one of the strongest opposition to capitalists “encroachment” marked the beginning of a transformed Venezuela, remains unknown. The road to normal relations with the U.S. still unclear and Venezuela’s future hangs on the kind of agreement reached by current regime and the opposition, led by Enrique Capriles Radonski, who lost to Chavez in October’s election. He has called for a national dialogue and asked that Venezuelans unite.

No matter the outcome, latest development is an opportunity for the West and the United States, to normalize relations with a nation both had partially isolated for decades. Perhaps a clear message from the United States of its readiness to respect Venezuela’s sovereignty, and support its economic goals, could win Chavez’s loyalists and make them reconsider the strategies on foreign policy. Chavez is gone but his legacy and political ideology remains. Changing the anti-imperialists movement could be difficult, but a proper approach by the United States may help reshape damaged relations.

Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at Follow on Twitter @san0670.

Categories: Foreign Affairs

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