Remembering Hugo Chavez 1954-2013. Photo courtesy of Annalisa Melandri, Italy Remembering Hugo Chavez 1954-2013. Photo courtesy of Annalisa Melandri, Italy

Marking one year since the untimely death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, eminent writer and film maker Tariq Ali gave a passionate memorial lecture in central London

The speaker captivated the audience of 300 people at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery with personal anecdotes about Hugo Chavez, the context and background to the Bolivarian revolution, and the current threats to successor Nicolas Maduro.

In particular, Ali made the case that not only is modern day Bolivarianism surviving, but were the country to face another coup d’état – as in 2002- the people of Venezuela, empowered and politicised as they were by Chavez, would fight back.

While recognising that there are ongoing social and economic challenges in Venezuela, Ali praised the strides Chavez took in reducing poverty and redistributing wealth, not only among Venezuelans, but to other countries on the continent. Ali gave special mention to Venezuela’s mutually beneficial relationship with the once-isolated Cuba, explaining how Chavez led the way to ending the US led blockade, and how Latin America’s new wave of leaders, including Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador have rallied round Cuba for trade in raw goods, skills, and political advice.

Together these progressive states have looked at ways of liberating themselves from the imperial rule of the USA, something that the superpower has not taken lying down. There is a correlation, Mr Ali observed, between the Latino governments’ increasing independence, and the ramped up rhetoric internationally about protests in Venezuela at the moment.

He went on to point out that those countries friendly with the USA, including dictatorships and kingdoms, rarely have their human rights abuses challenged, while the democratically elected governments of Morales, Maduro and Correa are regularly discredited in the international media.

In a month that has seen escalating right-wing opposition violence from extremist elements against the incumbent government, Ali also used this context to shed an alternative light on the proceedings there.

The crowd at SOAS evidently took Mr Ali’s speech as an antidote to this, showering him with enthusiastic applause at the end.

The night was captured on camera for use in both Britain and Latin America, with the hope of extending a message of solidarity and support from Britain to Venezuela’s pro-Maduro majority.

From Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

VSC would like to thank Thompsons Solicitors, Unite the Union and Verso Books for their support for this event.

Hugo Chavez