The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) joins the government and people of Venezuela in mourning the passing away of their President, Hugo Chavez after an enduring battle with cancer. We share in their pain and anguish and feel a sense of loss for this charming, charismatic, and caring leader who made the working people and the poor the centerepiece of his economic policy.
His policies brought free health services, subsidized food and shelter to the slum-poor.
Hugo Chavez was a remarkable leader who held his own against the overbearing influence of developed nations and sought to demonstrate that there are viable development models to that of the West. He nationalized the commanding heights of the economy, kept oil prices low for the poor, propped up the economies of many a Latin American country via sustainable oil price discounts and subsidies for which he earned the wrath of the United States, understandably.
He ensured state-run enterprises worked , disproving the notion that the state is incapable of running corporations effectively for optimal service delivery to the people. The numerous state-owned refineries for instance not only ensured regular supply of petroleum products to the teeming Venzuelans at almost four naira per litre, but were a veritable source of supply to other countries, especially those that had mismanaged theirs or those with under capacity.
Commenting on the Nigerian economy when most ambassadors would engage in diplomatese, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Nigeria, characteristic of his leader, Chavez, told the Nigerian government bluntly to free its oil from the strangle-hold of multi-nationals and cabals of different hues for the benefit of the poor, warning that except the government borrowed a leaf from the Venezuelan experience, the turbulence in its oil sector would persist. He has since been proved right.
His death is a devastating blow to millions of Venezuelans and their friends across the world who adored his policies, which were generally pro-people. Under his watch, Venezuela built bridges across nations, and emerged an influential voice not only in the region but across the world.
Despite being accused of ambitious political tendencies, Chavez did appear to be what his people not only wanted, but needed. This was demonstrated in the year 2002, when military coup removed him, but the Venezuelan people swept into the streets and restored him to power in triumph.
That he will be missed by his people and other working families, is an obvious statement. This remarkable working class leader, is a hero of the people, and needs emulation by all Third World leaders, particularly in Nigeria – leaders that will stand up for the interest of the poor and not big business and western interests.
Abdulwahed I. Omar