"he gave us hope": on an anniversary date, Venezuelans reflect on Chavez and the revolution

This Wednesday (28), Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías would be 67 years old, if he were alive. Born in Sabaneta, a municipality in the interior of the state of Barinas, Chávez awakened to politics as a lieutenant colonel in the Bolivarian army. After trying to seize power in arms in 1992, Chávez realized that in order to raise a government of the poor, it was necessary to convince the Venezuelan people.

After traveling the country between 1995 and 1998, he was finally elected president of Venezuela with the promise of calling a Constituent Assembly “to refound the Republic”, something he fulfilled in 1999.

“For my generation Chávez it was like a historic miracle,” says former vice president Elias Jaua.

With the new Magna Carta, the process of the Bolivarian Revolution began, based on what Chávez conceived as the tree with three roots, the union between the thought of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator of Latin America; Simón Rodríguez, professor of Bolívar; and Ezequiel Zamora, another Venezuelan independence leader.

The so-called V Republic sought to meet the historical needs of Venezuelan society through social programs called Grandes Misões. Through the Robinson Mission it eradicated illiteracy and increased access to public universities, making Venezuela the first country in the region for higher education enrollments.

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With the great housing mission, so far, 3.6 million homes have been delivered to Venezuelans. And with the Bairro Adentro mission, health posts and hospitals were installed in the outskirts of the country.

“For a long time, a lot of importance was given to culture. Anyone who didn’t read it during this period was because they didn’t want to. Books cost next to nothing. I’ve never seen so many people at the Book Fairs,” recalls Venezuelan singer Cecília Todd.

Venezuelans visit Chavez’s grave to honor him on his birthday / Leonel Retamal / Telesur

Despite his military record creating fear within the Latin American left, Chávez was a man adored by the people. When he died, on March 5, 2013, after suffering two years of cancer, a crowd of about 6 million people mobilized from different parts of the country to say goodbye.

His funeral was considered one of the greatest in history and his body was held for ten days in the heart of Caracas, in the favela 23 de Janeiro, where his remains now rest and where a shrine was built in his name.

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“Love. Chavez is love. He’s like the reason for things. Chavez gave us a lot of hope. You know that it is possible to have a country as it should be, as you want it to be, even if it costs a lot of work. This certainty was given to us by Chavez. And this I carry in my heart. This is love”, says the writer and deputy for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSuv), Carola Chávez.

“Chávez convinced us not over a loose word, an idea or a charisma. He always had five lines, because he always used the number five: five strategic lines, five poles, five major historical objectives, which was the last program of the Pátria”, highlights Elias Jaua.

See also: Special | Hugo Chávez: the man who changed the history of Venezuela

In addition to being a man dedicated to work, who slept little, could be late for appointments and call last minute meetings, the eternal commander of the Bolivarian Revolution is remembered in Venezuela and throughout Latin America for his eloquence.

“It’s just that one of his most striking features was his spontaneity, simplicity and humility. We know where he comes from. And it never stopped being like that. He never abandoned his customs, his land. And for me this is extremely admirable, in addition to several other qualities”, says singer Cecília Todd.

the challenge today

After eight years without Chávez’s physical presence, the challenge is to keep his legacy alive.

“I believe the biggest challenge is with the youth, because this country is very young. And 20-year-olds almost don’t remember him, because they were children when we lived in the most effervescent moment of Chavismo”, comments Carola Chávez, who has written a book about his trajectory and a series of chronicles of the last electoral campaign of the former president.

“To return to Chávez we simply have to review the history of the Bolivarian Revolution, which to a large extent was written by him. We don’t have to copy anything. We don’t need models. Our model was successful and if we stick to its programmatic foundations and adapt to this complex reality we live in today, we will be able to glimpse the horizon”, concludes Elias Jaua.

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