Captain, fighter, where one mouth

shouts liberty, where one ear listens,

where one red soldier smashes a dark forehead,

where one freeman's laurel blossoms, where a new

banner is adorned with the blood of our illustrious dawn,

Bolivar, captain, thy face is seen.

A Chant for Bolívar. Pablo Neruda


CARACAS.— He is spoken of in the present tense. The soldier, president, the leader, the son of Doña Elena, the grandson of Maisanta: Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías continues to pass through the streets of Venezuela, his beloved land.

Huge crowds at the closing of his last presidential campaign in the city of Caracas.
Photo: Jose M. Correa

He is everywhere. On the murals of the central avenues, on banners, in the most humble homes scattered across the hillsides, or tattooed on the skin of the youth.

He is admired by his followers and respected by his detractors. The little kid from the Venezuelan plains pledged his life for his country and devoted himself to its people until his last breath.

He rose up against the excesses of the Venezuelan oligarchy and did not stop until he had fulfilled his promise of giving a voice to the voiceless. He founded the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 in 1982, and swore, under the historic Samán de Güere tree, to initiate the struggle to build a new Venezuela.

He led brave young men, who, like him, didn’t support the excesses of the various governments of the country. So, ten years after that oath, he led the civil-military rebellion of February 4, 1992, the origins of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The “for now” that he uttered that day, on assuming responsibility for those failed events, was the necessary impetus for every Venezuelan to awake from their slumber. Convinced that armed struggle was not an option, he registered his Movement of the Fifth Republic (MVR) on the electoral register. He played within the same rules of the so-called representative democracy of the Fourth Republic and was elected president of the country for the first time in 1998. From that moment onwards, he began a process of profound transformations in all spheres: the social, political, economic, cultural and the media, which continues today.

His enemies could not allow a revolutionary to be in power. A new Árbenz, or a new Allende, or Fidel, could not arise here. Getting rid of him became an obsession. Violence, intrigue and manipulation were the cards played by the Venezuelan opposition with the open support of the United States to remove him from the presidency in 2002.

It was none other than the people themselves who took to the streets and rescued their President. The failure of the coup in those days of April, far from intimidating him, made him a true leader. There was a before and after to the events of 2002.

This Bolívar of our days wrote the history of Latin American and the Caribbean with distinction. He saw in the Liberator his teacher, his guide. Fidel was like a father, a brother, a friend. Ever since his first visit to Cuba in 1994 a friendship was forged between these two great men.

Along with other leaders in the region such as Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Daniel Ortega, Néstor Kirchner and Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, he changed the face of this land destined for oblivion.

As a result of this alliance, in 2004 Alba was born as an alternative to the U.S. strategy to re-establish itself and help itself to what it wanted in Latin America and the Caribbean. Later, other regional spaces such as UNASUR, Mercosur and CELAC were consolidated, all with the indelible mark of the Bolivarian leader.

But more than for his political or social legacy, Chávez is remembered here for his charisma, his arousing speech, his sincerity. His constant anguish to deliver for his people. Those who knew him say he often felt as though he were plowing the sea with that desire, so characteristic of him, to remain loyal to the people.

When this March 5, two years after his departure, the cannons resound at the ceremony in his honor at the Cuartel de la Montaña where his remains lie, at precisely 4.25 pm, Chávez will be awakened together with Bolívar, to continue guiding Venezuela and Latin America.