The self-declared socialist leader Hugo Chavez who transformed Venezuelan politics by funneling record oil revenue to the poor, nationalizing corporations and vilifying foes as U.S. imperialist puppets died today. He was 58.
He passed away at 4:25 p.m. at a military hospital in Caracas. On Dec. 10, 2012, President Chavez traveled to Cuba to undergo his fourth cancer operation in 18 months. This was only two months after winning re-election in a campaign in which he told voters he was “totally free” of the disease. It was the last time he was seen in public.
There is a lot of debate regarding the efficacy of the policies he pursued in helping the masses, but there is no doubt that the majority of the world deemed him as a leader that cared about the people. Chavez’ death is saddening and could have negative implications for Jamaica and the Caribbean at large. While he was alive he stated that he wouldn’t rest until Bolivar’s dream of a Latin America united and independent from foreign powers was realized. He tapped the world’s biggest oil reserves to provide approximately $7 billion annually in subsidized crude oil to Cuba and its Caribbean neighbors. His death could trigger a huge hike for the cost of fuel in this region.
After attending a mass ceremony with his parents, Hugo and Elena, following cancer treatment in April 2012, Chavez wiped tears from his face and pleaded with God for his life.
“I ask God to give me life, however painful,” said Chavez, who earlier in his presidency frequently clashed with Vatican officials over his support for socialism. “I can carry 100 crosses, your crown of thorns, but don’t take me yet. I still have things to do.”
Chavez, who was divorced twice, had four children.
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