How things change.
Fifty years ago, at the height of its imperial power, Washington persuaded all the member nations of the Organization of American States, with the brave exception of Mexico, to expel Cuba from its ranks.
Today, the OAS is moribund, replaced by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Cuba is currently chair of this continent-wide organization while the increasingly isolated U.S. has been excluded.
What’s significant about CELAC, as it’s known by its Spanish initials, is that both progressive and conservative governments hastened to join this organization in which the U.S. empire would have no say. Whether left or right, they agreed that their future lay in their own independence and unity. CELAC was just one of the dreams that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela brought to reality.
His other great accomplishment was to lift millions of his own people out of poverty and powerlessness. To do this, he obviously had to brave the wrath of the multinationals and their comprador allies who were reaping billions from Venezuela’s oil while millions went hungry.
The empire threw everything short of invasion at him: coup plots, sabotage, strikes by the bosses, endless assassination attempts. It even put up candidates for election. But each assault on the revolution only made it stronger.
Venezuela still has huge problems: crime, entrenched bureaucracy and the ever looming counter-revolution. It’s attempting to create a real socialist democracy at home while forging unity in the hemisphere. No one knows how far Venezuela will go towards realizing Chavez’s vision for his country and his continent. But after 14 years, the revolution has made solid gains and put down deep roots. Latin America has, by and large, broken free of the empire’s cruel grip.
I believe that people and movements make history, so I’m not one for the ‘great man’ theory. Still, it cannot be doubted that leaders who really change things do occasionally appear. Latin America had Bolivar, Juarez and Marti. Chavez will be remembered alongside them.
For a fuller view of Hugo Chavez’ legacy and Venezuela’s prospects, I’ve added this and this link from CEPR, one of the best sources for honest economic news we have.