“Racism is very characteristic of imperialism and capitalism. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth and curly hair. And I’m so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it is African.” – Hugo Chavez, September 21, 2005
The death of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013) has evoked serious thoughts and reflections on the meaning of his life and the process he led from peoples and communities throughout the Americas and the world. Despite much criticism by many right wing governments and people in the West, Hugo Chavez led a process in Venezuela that symbolised the new assertiveness and self-consciousness of nations in Latin America that saw a future for themselves, liberated from the heavy-handed, oppressive and economically draining policies of their powerful neighbour from the North.
But along with the symbolism connected to the new politics of authentic decolonisation that many of the centre-left states embraced, Chavez was committed to a process of providing real, substantive support to states in the region who were willing to pursue a course that could result in a real shift in power in the region. What that signified for many of us in the Afro-descendant communities in the Americas, was that the rise of Chavez and the Bolivarian process that the people of Venezuela had embarked on would raise the spectrums of a new kind of politic in the region. We hoped that with the new commitment to social inclusion and the ending of all forms of oppression that the issue of race and racial discrimination would become an acceptable and indeed an essential element of the transformation process in the Americas. Continue reading