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Commemorations in Canada as part of the world tribute to Hugo Chávez

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

CANADIAN progressive media has reflected extensively on the occasion of the death of the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez as part of the world expressions of grief and homage. Meanwhile, memorial tributes and tributes in his honour being held from coast to coast across the northern nation.

Venezuelan People Show Their Mettle: Bolivarian Sea of Support for President Hugo Chávez” is a special supplement published March 7th by the TML Daily newspaper, reviewing commemorative meetings and tributes made by presidents, politicians, personalities and progressive people from Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions of the world after hearing the news. The supplement includes scores of images.

Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Otto Pérez of Guatemala, Donald Ramotar of Guyana; Michel Martelly of Haiti, Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & Barbuda, and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo.
Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Otto Pérez of Guatemala, Donald Ramotar of Guyana; Michel Martelly of Haiti, Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & Barbuda, and Honduran President Porfirio Lobo.

Yet another edition on March 12 entitled “Chávez Lives, the Struggle Continues,” is dedicated to the State funeral services of President Chávez. “In addition to millions of Venezuelans lining the streets and watching on television, and the audience internationally, the broad support for President Chávez was reflected in the fact that 54 foreign delegations – including 32 led by heads of state or government – attended the funeral to pay tribute to the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution.  Most of the countries of the Americas and the Caribbean were present with the highest level delegations, except for the United States and Canada which participated with low level delegations.

The guard of honour to the deceased Bolivarian leader comprising Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Ollanta Humala of Peru, Desiré Delano Bouterse of Surinam, José Mujica of Uruguay, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, President Ricardo Martinelly of Panama, Prime Ministers Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Kenneth Anthony of St. Lucia, and Prince Felipe of Bourbon, representing Spain.
The guard of honour to the deceased Bolivarian leader comprising Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Ollanta Humala of Peru, Desiré Delano Bouterse of Surinam, José Mujica of Uruguay, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, President Ricardo Martinelly of Panama, Prime Ministers Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Kenneth Anthony of St. Lucia, and Prince Felipe of Bourbon, representing Spain.

Heads of State included the President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko and the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and his wife Aline attended on a personal basis.

Along with the solemn swearing in of Executive Vice President Nicolas Maduro as an acting president of the South American country, expressed by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who explained that such decision was imposed to Mr Maduro to call for elections within 30 days (Presidential Election Announced for April 14), the newspaper published the moving reflection from Fidel Castro of Cuba entitled, “We Have Lost Our Best Friend.” For the information of readers, TML Daily also published a comprehensive historical overview in a chronological format, “The Legacy of President Hugo Chávez,” of the manifold achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution to date.

In related news, the Venezuelan government is also launching an investigation into the death of the former president. The United States has expelled two Venezuelan diplomats (Venezuelan Diplomats Expelled by US), following the expulsion of US attaches from Caracas for subversive activities. The United Nations General Assembly paid tribute to the late Venezuelan president during a special ceremony on Wednesday, hailing his commitment to social justice and advocacy for society’s most vulnerable groups.

Tribute to Hugo Chávez at a monument to Simón Bolívar in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, March 7, 2013.
Tribute to Hugo Chávez at a monument to Simón Bolívar in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, March 7, 2013.

As well, community meetings and vigils attended by people of all walks of life are being held from coast to coast across Canada in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Edmonton and Vancouver, amongst other locales.

In Halifax, Dr. John M. Kirk, Dr. Afua Cooper and Dr. Isaac Saney of Dalhousie University presented short pieces regarding the loss of Venezuelan president Chávez to the community memorial and discussion in a local coffee house sponsored by five organizations. They announced that “Hugo Chávez was a steadfast fighter for self-determination, social justice, independence and internationalism. His vision and politics went beyond the boundaries of Venezuela to encompass the struggle for dignity not only in Latin America and the Caribbean but for the entire world.”

130308-Hamilton-ChavezMemorial-01In Hamilton, several organizations held a community memorial for President Chávez on March 7, 2013, featuring songs, speeches and poetry. President of Local 1005 United Steelworkers Union Rolf Gerstenberger 130308-Hamilton-ChavezMemorial-02Mahoneyconveyed the workers’ condolences and informed that at the steelworkers' regular Thursday meeting, 75 workers had stood for a minute of silence and signed a card to send to the people of Venezuela. Local 1005’s resident poet Bill Mahoney recited a poem dedicated to President Chávez (left).

Meanwhile, Canadians have spoken out in letters, social media and even youtube videos against the uncouth and uncivilized statements made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the occasion of the passing of President Chávez under the pretext of “condolences” blatantly calling for regime change in Venezuela. In an official statement Venezuela issued a letter of protest to the Government of Canada that the Bolivarian Republic “vehemently and categorically protests the insensitive and impertinent statements made by the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper on March 5, 2013 at a time when the people of Venezuela lament and are wracked with sorrow over the irreparable physical loss of the President Commander Hugo Chávez Frías.”

The article “Canadian arrogance: Harper and the death of Hugo Chávez  by Gary Leech, who lectures in the political science department at the College of Cape Breton, published in the New Brunswick Media Co-op, contrasts Harper’s deplorable statement with his ardent eulogy of a dictator in oil-rich Nigeria.

Here is a sampling of comments made by outraged readers of the Globe and Mail on Harper:

  • Cancer is a universal scourge of human beings, and it doesn’t know partisan ideology or political and ideological orientation. For Harper to celebrate the man’s death from cancer only demonstrates what a petty-minded and small-souled man he really is – a hack from toe to crown. No real Christian would take the opportunity to celebrate a man’s death like that. It just shows that Harper, despite his duplicitous and hypocritical rhetoric, does not have empathy, and therefore cannot appreciate universality even as a mere idea.
  • Harper’s remarks on the day of the death of a world leader, Chavez, are shameful and out of order. Any politician who honestly cares about any other person at all, who understands politics and the world, no matter what their political bent, would never stoop to say what Harper just said on the day of the death of another world leader.
  • Comments by Canada’s prime minister are embarrassing.
  • Even if he didn’t like Chavez, Harper could easily have been gracious and kind to the family but he chooses to callously disregard the children and offer only cruel words. To the children; Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, Rosinés and Hugo Rafael, I take this opportunity to apologize for the thuggish and un-Canadian behaviour of Stephen Harper, MP. And I wish you well...
  • Harper and the 38% of voters who voted CPC have no business insulting the people of such a wonderful country by telling them, in effect, that they were too stupid to know what is good for them... Whatever political ideology one believes in, how would we feel if a more powerful country came in and messed around with our internal politics in the interests of installing a government in Canada willing to permit our natural resources to be exploited and developed on our behalf, in exchange for a small royalty and some hand-me-down military equipment to keep the impoverished citizens from daring to object to the arrangement. I don’t care what Chavez believed about free markets vs state socialism. He was a better and more honourable man than Stephen Harper will ever be, he risked his life and walked away from the billions of dollars a typical head-of-state in an energy-rich country he would have personally amassed in oil deals with American energy interests, had he been willing to sell out his people like in so many other such countries.
  • Hey Harper. I didn’t like him either but he was elected and by a considerably larger percentage of the vote than you. It is not up to you. It is up to the people of Venezuela to decide who they want.
  • No matter what your politics, Prime Minister Harper’s remarks on the passing of Hugo Chavez are petty and unworthy of a Canadian Prime Minister. Of course he means that life in Venezuela will be better for the rich and large corporations, not the poor. Just like in Stephen Harper’s Canada.

Canadians are also confronting the demonization of president Chávez by the monopoly media; in total denial of the reality in 2013, the media has left no sphere untouched in its hooliganism, including sports. Even the national baseball team, competing in  the World Baseball Classic and dedicating its performance to their leader, who instituted a sports-for-all policy and helped found the Alba Games, was made a target by the sports pages of the Globe and Mail, on the heels of a similar attack in the New York Times. One exchange merits more than a passing mention.

Dalhousie’s John Kirk, professor of Latin American studies, author of an acclaimed work on Cuba’s medical internationalism and a specialist in the political history of Cuba, wrote to the National Post that he would give its columnist Peter Foster a failing grade for his diatribe on the legacy of Hugo Chavez (Letters of the Day, March 7):

“He dismisses reforms there, claiming that Mr. Chavez failed in his attempts at ‘completely destroying democracy in Venezuela.’ Yet he was elected president on four occasions, most recently with 54.4% of the popular vote. Last October, Jimmy Carter noted that ‘of the 92 elections that [the Carter Center] had monitored … the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.’”

Mr. Foster talks about Mr. Chavez’s “wealth-destroying policies.” In his fact-based response, Prof Kirk underlined that

“He should also mention, however, the reduction of poverty from 55% (1995) to 26.4% (2010), and that of extreme poverty from 23.4% to 8.5%. The virtual reduction of illiteracy, massive improvement in access to health care (best seen in the reduction of infant mortality rate from 20 per 1,000 live births to 13), and reduction in unemployment (from 14.5% to 7.6%) also need to be acknowledged.”

In a hysterical response featuring a personal attack on Prof. Kirk, Foster again attacks Hugo Chávez for his independent oil policies. Like Harper, the media conveniently refuses to recognize the untold wealth that North American monopolies, many of them headquartered in Canada such as Irving Oil, have plundered from Venezuela and the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. (Instead of an independent self-sufficient energy policy, successive Canadian governments have made Atlantic Canada dependent on imported oil, especially from Venezuela, to the benefit of Irving and Exxon.*) His duty as a journalist in Canada, which has benefited from this plunder, demands that at the very least he acknowledge with some humility the great contribution President Chávez has made to righting the terrible injustices caused by North American monopolies and their political, espionage and military agents.

In another response to the National Post, Dave Coles, president, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, pointed out, “On top of cutting poverty and infant mortality in half, Mr. Chavez helped increase democratic space in the country through worker co-operatives, community councils and new political parties. Unlike our current Prime Minister, history will judge Mr. Chavez’s record kindly.”

Respectful commentaries on the passing of Hugo Chávez span divers religious and political affiliations. The esteemed Islamic magazine, Crescent International, based in Toronto, published a reflection on March 6th forecasting that “Chávez’s charismatic leadership created a system based on principles that are beyond a certain persona. Venezuela’s achievements under Chavez are the biggest affirmation of the fact that he established a system that is not dependent on his personality.” Calling for Islamic states to maintain strong diplomatic relations with those states committed to social justice such as Venezuela, it affirmed that “Chávez’s support for the Muslims facing the imperialist onslaught was unmatched by any other leader.”

In contrast to the mean-spirited and narrow-minded reporting of the monopoly media, the commemorative materials and community tributes reflect the human dignity and enlightened culture characteristic of all those who stand with the exploited and for social progress everywhere.

Endnote

* In contrast to Irving, one of the leading retailers of energy in the neighbouring state of Maine and whose refinery is dependent on crude oil imported from Venezuela and Nigeria, Venezuela sponsors a humanitarian program that has provided energy assistance to low-income Maine people since at least 2006, Among those who have benefited from the heating aid provided by Citgo Petroleum Corp. — the national petroleum company of Venezuela — are households throughout the state that are eligible for the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, and members of Maine’s Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet tribes. “We’re obviously very saddened by his death. He really understood the issues and the importance of overcoming centuries of poverty,” tribal chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscots told the Bangor Daily News. “He was genuinely engaged in this process. [The Venezuelans] worked with us on a nation-to-nation level,” he said. In contrast, the Passamaquoddy has been denied First Nation status by the Canadian government despite repeated attempts.

Mass rally on March 11, 13 at the nomination for Nicolás Maduro as the presidential candidatefor the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Mass rally on March 11, 13 at the nomination for Nicolás Maduro as the presidential candidate
for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Tony Seed maintains a weblog at http://tonyseed.wordpress.com

 Pictures, Images and Photos
 

 

 Pictures, Images and Photos
 

 

 Pictures, Images and Photos
 

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