KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 6, IWN — The death on Tuesday of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, 58, has left “a void, uncertainties have arisen and his unfinished tasks are still to be completed,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Wednesday.
“Those of us who have been toiling with him and the Bolivarian movement in the vineyard of our people’s movement, materially, socially and culturally, must bind ourselves ever more tightly together to still the uncertainties and finish his tasks in the on-going journey for the further ennoblement and advancement of our people,” said Gonsalves, who described Chavez as his “very close friend and comrade”.
“It is in this regard I pledge continuing solidarity with his successor, comrade Nicolas Maduro, and the Bolivarian government and people,” Gonsalves further said, as he expressed condolences on behalf of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and himself.
Gonsalves said the announcement of the death of Chavez — his “friend and brother” — after a protracted battle with cancer, came as “sad and numbing and heart-rending news”.
“A titan of Latin America and the Caribbean has been taken from us at the relatively young age of 58 years. A beacon, a guiding light has been extinguished in flesh; a light which illuminated and not blinded us in our quest for peace, justice, democracy and humanity, particularly the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalised,” he said.
He described Chavez as “a philosopher of 21 Century socialism, a believer in core Christian principles, a practical political figure, a leader who knew how to draw out and did draw out of his people that which was good and noble in them and oft times to draw out of them the goodness and nobility which they themselves did not as yet know that they possess.”
Gonsalves further said that the Venezuelan president, who came to office in 1999, was a democrat who won three presidential elections, two referenda, several parliamentary elections, and a fourth six-year term as president last October, in elections hailed by former US president, Jimmy Carter, “as the best run elections in Latin America.
“He was a nationalist, an ardent promoter of nationalism in Latin America and the Caribbean, anti–colonialist and anti-imperialist to the core and a devoted and loving father,” Gonsalves said.
He said he was first told of Chavez during a private meeting in September 2001 with former Cuba president, Fidel Castro.
“Fidel told me then that there is a historic force that is arisen in Venezuela by the name of Chavez. In time, I came to know first hand Fidel’s assessment of Hugo as someone who loves people, especially the poor and working people, who hated injustice and who was possessed of an abundance of generosity of spirit and solidarity with fellow fighters for justice, peace and genuine democracy.
“Without Hugo Chavez, there would have been no PetroCaribe, no ALBA and no Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean,” Gonsalves said, referring to political and economic blocs that Chavez has pioneered.
“He was the vital bridge between Latin America on the one hand and the Caribbean on the other. My country and others in the region have been huge beneficiaries from all of these initiatives of Chavez and more. I shall remember him for his honestly, his wit and his camaraderie,” Gonsalves said.
Chavez will be buried on Friday.