What We Should Appreciate About Hugo Chavez

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On March 5, 2013. Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela since 1999, died of a massive heart attack at 58 years-old after a 2 or 3-year battle with cancer.

Predictably, leaders of various nations responded to the controversial leader’s death in politically motivated ways, and mainstream (corporate-controlled) media seized the opportunity to portray Chavez as a demagogue and loudmouth buffoon with an obsessive hatred for the United States.

However, many of we outside observers thirsting for liberation, education, healthcare, economic justice, and inspired and uncompromising leadership, viewed Chavez as an outspoken opponent of Western imperialism and hegemony. In fact, he supported and received support from the very nations America defines as its terrorist enemies: China, Iran, Cuba, Afghanistan, Lebanon, South African Revolutionary leaders, and a host of often forgotten Latino countries. For many Black and Brown people in America and throughout the world, he embodied the (admittedly oversimplified ) saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Who among us can forget his gutsy denunciation of then President George Bush and American/international imperialism during his 2006 address (shown below) to the United Nations General Assembly?

Despite the ferocious smear campaign imperialist powers employ against Chavez, we conscious world citizens MUST know the truth about our fallen comrade primarily by investigating how he improved living conditions in REAL ways for the most deprived and vulnerable men and women of Venezuela. The time has come when we must disavow world leaders who attempt to influence/critique the foreign policies of other nations when their own nations face unprecedented violence, illness, poor education, unemployment, incarceration, monopoly economics, and widespread discrimination.

Chavez earned his credibility through creating a record of social and economic innovation and achievement with which many Western powers cannot compete.

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But the story does not end there. His achievements as Venezuelan President were astounding. Under Chavez’ leadership inequality, education and economic deprivation dropped significantly in Venezuela. Those of us in America can personally bear witness to Chavez’ compassion, generosity and concerns about inequality. Have we forgotten his visit to the South Bronx in 2005 and all the aid he provided for Black and Brown residents?

Nor can we forget the Latino leader’s uncharacteristic knowledge of the Black condition around the world and his pride and consciousness of being African descended (as shown below):

We must not believe the hype spun by imperialist corporate media outlets nor manipulative     politicians seeking to turn our attention from leadership we should admire and emulate. Often, the enemies of our enemies are our friends. We should never form an opinion of anyone – neighborhood resident or international leader – without knowing or researching them for ourselves. Rest in peace, brother Hugo. We appreciate and will not forget your leadership and example. The struggle continues….

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Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

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