Well known for his anti-imperialist stance and support for oppressed people, Hugo Chavez’s death has provoked a worldwide lament. In Palestine, activists participating in demonstrations against Israeli administrative detention wore Che Guevara t-shirts and carried Venezuelan flags – emblems of a continuous struggle for freedom which has been transformed into decades of reality for Palestinians.
President Mahmoud Abbas stated that “The Palestinian people will remain loyal to Chavez and his memory will remain engraved in recognition of his courage and conscience in supporting the right to establish our independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital”. Hamas declared Chavez ‘an activist and supporter of the Palestinian cause’ and a defender of freedom who opposed Zionist aggression against the Gaza Strip. Ahmed Sa’adat, Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, reiterated these declarations and evoked similarities between the struggle for freedom in Palestine and Latin America saying that Chavez’s ‘heroic stand against the aggression and tyranny of the occupation’ would never be forgotten by the Palestinian people.
Venezuela’s expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in 2009 was followed with a statement in which Chavez declared that the presidents of both Israel and the US should be tried at the International Criminal Court. His anti-Zionist stance was again emphasised in the aftermath of the massacre on board the Mavi Marmara in May 2010, with Chavez asserting that the attack was ‘an act of war undertaken by the Israeli army against defenceless civilians’.
On September 17, 2011 Chavez elaborated upon Venezuela’s support in favour of recognising the Palestinian State. Drawing upon verses from the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish while insisting upon recognition of Israeli aggression as genocide against the Palestinian people, Chavez declared the Palestinian State ‘an act of historic justice towards a people who carry with them, from time immemorial, all the pain and suffering of the world’. He also denounced the Zionist interpretation of Palestinian history, pointing out that Zionist agenda not only annihilated the right of Palestinians to live in their land; it also strived to obliterate the very existence of the Palestinian people. The UN, said Chavez, which so complacently approved the establishment of the State of Israel, has been sabotaged by an imperialist agenda in allowing Israel to violate international law, as well as by leaving the process to Palestinian statehood open to debate and veto.
Chavez also welcomed Mahmoud Abbas in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in 2011, leading to the establishment of bilateral cooperation on health, agriculture, trade and culture. Following the UN vote which established Palestine as a non-member state, a Palestinian delegation from Ramallah visited Venezuela. A notable gesture on behalf of Venezuela was the abolishment of visas for Palestinians wishing to travel to the country. Venezuela also pledged to build a hospital on Palestinian territory, advancing another concept of Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution implemented through collaboration with Cuban doctors – the promotion of free health care for all citizens.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Obama has already breached the possibility of ‘a new chapter’ for Venezuela, enhanced by ‘democratic principles and respect for human rights’ which the US supposedly abides by. This ‘new chapter’ to mean renewed subjugation of Venezuelans to the elite, is unlikely to happen if Nicolas Maduro wins the forthcoming elections. Israel is basing its hopes on opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, to renew diplomatic ties with Venezuela.
For Palestinians and millions of other people worldwide, Chavez will continue to represent a legacy of commitment towards revolution and freedom; an epitome of resistance against imperialist intervention. The Palestinian resistance is an embodiment of this metaphor.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.