THE late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez like all humans was not perfect and had his own flaws.
After all, as the saying goes, to err is human, to forgive is divine. As human beings we should not judge harshly those who stumble, because none of us is perfect, and that is our nature. The flaws that Chavez had should not make us blind to his good deeds, particularly for poor Venezuelans. Chavez was a hero whose policies helped millions of people not only in Venezuela, but also beyond. In America two million people living in colder climes received free heating oil a year ago when they needed it the most, after the US Congress and Obama decided to cut 25% from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programme, showing once again their preference to default on the needy and vulnerable rather than ask the most powerful and wealthy to make even the smallest sacrifices.
He was a progressive individual, whose dedication was solely to raise the living standards of the poor in oil-rich Venezuela, daring to do it in the face of hostile opposition from the corrupt oligarchy that dominated the country for years with the assistance of the U.S.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba described the late Chavez as a champion for regional integration and poverty eradication in the entire Latin America and he was right. Defying imperialist hegemony he promoted a leftist alternative to the US-led Free Trade Area of the Americas, and became a driving force behind the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). His close relationship with Cuba and his support to that island nation bear testimony to his progressive credentials of solidarity.
Chavez was a hero who had genuine affection for his people who in turn loved this true champion of the poor. At the height of his power Chavez enjoyed runaway popularity levels exceeding 80 percent, especially among the poor and the shack-dwellers in the slums of the Venezuelan capital Caracas. Rhetoric aside, Chavez was an inspiring revolutionary who saw to it that the billions of dollars generated from oil revenues empowered millions of Venezuelans. He was a harsh critic of American capitalism and its imperialist foreign policy and this did not endear him to the White House and its allies in Europe.
While he harshly criticised the US and its policies, the late Chavez praised Cuba and openly courted Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad much to the chagrin of the White House. Despite US condemnation of Chavez for his friendliness towards Cuba, Iran and North Korea, labelled as pariah states, Chavez defiantly maintained his independence and defended the sovereign right of Venezuela to choose its own friends. He supported and defended the right of the Iranian republic to pursue its nuclear programme, which it insists is for peaceful purposes and not aimed at producing a nuclear weapon, instead challenging all nuclear powers to disarm and to bring the arms race to an end.
Washington's ire stems mainly from the fact that Chavez nationalised several American oil and gas companies and splurged billions of dollars on social programmes that endeared him to the poor and suffering masses. While Americans and Europeans endured recession, Venezuelans benefited from free healthcare, free education, and cheaper subsidised food and clothing. President Pohamba was right when he eulogised Chavez saying he was a "true revolutionary whose contribution to the social and economic development and the upliftment of the living standards of the Venezuelan people will always be remembered from generation to generation" .
Though he had his critics both at home and abroad, Chavez was a charismatic figure who empowered many of his countrymen and women using his country's God-given natural resource to extricate millions from grinding poverty - a move that was not well received by capitalist-minded Washington.
Namibia joins other progressive nations in mourning this Venezuelan hero and defender of the Bolivarian revolution whose legacy will live on, not only in the hearts of the poor and the downtrodden masses of Venezuela, but everywhere in the world where poverty threatens the livelihoods of millions of people and denies them dignity in the name of capitalist greed.