Thousands of messages of solidarity and love for Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez are pouring in from the Venezuelan masses and Latin American leaders and, as he departed for Cuba Dec. 10 to undergo surgery for newly-detected cancer. Thousands of supporters of the socialist leader took to the streets today, packing central plazas in cities all across Venezuela to show support for the president. Presidents from throughout Latin America sent their well wishes.
The seriousness of Chávez’s condition became evident when he spoke of a successor on Venezuelan television Dec. 8, after announcing that he must return immediately to Cuba for his fourth surgery since June 2011. Speaking to the Venezuelan people, Chávez said, “If something were to happen, I repeat, if I were to become incapacitated in any way, not only should Nicolás Maduro conclude the [current] term, as the Constitution dictates, but, in my firm opinion, as full as the moon, irrevocable, absolute, total—if in that scenario new presidential elections are convened, as mandated by the Constitution—you should vote for Nicolás Maduro as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. I ask that of you from my heart.”
Nicolás Maduro has been Venezuela’s foreign minister for six years, and shortly after Chávez’s Oct. 7 re-election as president, he named Maduro as his vice president. Maduro, 50-years-old, has a long history in progressive struggles. He actively supported Chávez, from the time Chávez was imprisoned for attempting a military attack on the right-wing and repressive presidency of Carlos Andrés Pérez, Feb. 4, 1992. In the 1970s and 1980s Maduro was a city bus driver and represented his coworkers informally because unions were not allowed in that sector.
With state elections only a week away, the news finds the Venezuelan right wing and their imperialist supporters abroad, in a display of gutless opportunism, salivating at the chance to portray the socialist president as unfit to lead the country and suggesting that his party will fall to disarray without his leadership. The Wall Street Journal ran the headline “Venezuela Confronts Twilight of Chávez Era” and cited grim prognoses for Chávez’ health and for the Venezuelan and Cuban economies.
Diosdado Cabello, Vice President of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and head of the National Assembly, explained, “The Komodo dragons in some sectors of the opposition are trying to poison the people, but they’re not going to succeed. They’re Harvard-educated lawyers who walk around with their stench and poison to hunt the unsuspecting, but the people are immunized against them.”
In a spotlight race for the governorship of the state of Miranda, countless dedicated youth, farmers, and workers are taking an active role in the campaign for former Vice President Elias Jaua from PSUV, who faces off against the right-winger Henrique Capriles Radonski, who recently lost to President Chávez in the October 7 election. Jaua counts on the support of 20 different political parties and hundreds of grassroots organizations that have signed on to support his campaign.
What those on the right fail to realize is that the Venezuelan revolution is bigger than Chávez: It lives in the millions of Venezuelan people and their allies across Latin America and all around the world who are prepared to fight to keep the progress they have made and to continue to gain more for the people. Graffitied all over barrio walls, hand-printed on t-shirts, shared widely across social media, the people attest: “Chávez es el pueblo” / “Chávez is the people,” to let the world know that the Venezuelan socialist process is a mass movement where millions of Venezuelans actively take part every day in building their country's future.
President Chávez, in his public announcement, emphasized that the revolution is bigger than any individual, and he stressed the importance of unity on the left: “If there's anything I would insist upon, it's strengthening national unity, unity of all the popular forces, the unity of all revolutionary forces... my beloved militancy, allied parties, revolutionary currents, unity, unity, unity.”
To President Hugo Chávez, Pa'lante Comandante—the PSL stands with you and the Venezuelan people. ¡Viveremos y venceremos!