(A letter from Pakistan to People of Venezuela)
Hola queridos venezolanos (Hi Dear Venezuelaians)!
I belong to a country most of you probably would never have heard of. It is called Pakistan and can be located on a world map, surrounded anti clockwise by China, Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, and India.
In my lifetime, I have never been to Venezuela and probably never will. I would blatantly admit that I am not very sure of where exactly your country is located in South America. I cannot speak or understand Spanish. Given an opportunity, I would be hardly able to identify your country’s flag and will find the spelling of Venezuela difficult to remember.
Millions of my countrymen live abroad for work and study in U.S, Europe, Canada, and Australia, but I am yet to meet someone who had visited your country for even once. Since your country does not churn out any famous movies or products that are easily available here in Pakistan, my know-how about your country is further limited. For many of us in this remote part of the world (from your viewpoint), Venezuela is a far-flung country somewhere across the Atlantic.
Courtesy of the internet, now I know that the total area of your country is larger than mine, but your country’s total population being six times less, is equal to the combined population of our two largest cities named Karachi and Lahore. Our Caracas is Islamabad, and your Orinoco River is bit smaller than our Indus River. When you people are taking your breakfast, we are on our way back from offices.
Your literacy rate of 95 % is much impressive than ours, which is 54%. Pakistan is home to few of the world’s mightiest mountains and yours Angel Waterfalls – highest in the world are majestic in their own way.
However, to a common Pakistani (like me) there are three distinct introductions to your country.
First is the fact that your country is among few of the largest oil exporters outside the gulf region. The second reason is the repeated victories by your country in Miss Universe (2008, 2009) and Miss World (2011) pageants. Combining the presence of a far-flung country across oceans with mesmerizing waterfalls and feminine beauty the place sounds like a distant fairyland.
However, the third and most important reason to identify your country is Hugo Chavez, the late president. There are more than one thousand kings, queens, princes, and head of states, presidents, and prime ministers across the globe, but very few can be identified as “leaders.” Hugo Chavez was one of them.
The flamboyant, revolutionary and charismatic leader born as Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías and was influenced by Simon Bolivar, who led to the freedom of the people of Latin America from the Spanish rule.
In 1992, as a Lt Col in the military, his revolutionary ideas led him to a failed coup against the incumbent president and he was imprisoned. After his release in 1994, he formed a political party and became the president of Venezuela in 1998.His followers were among the most passionate crowds a political leader can ask for and those disapproving his ideals particularly in the international community labeled him ‘the bad guy’ of global politics.
In a world dominated by the privatization and capitalism, Chavez quite successfully brought back the opposite model of nationalism and socialism that worked fine in Venezuela at least. Apart from his negative persona created by mainstream international media, Hugo Chavez was a great success in his country in terms of poverty alleviation.
In late 90’s when he came to power, 50% of his country’s population was living below the poverty line .Within a span of little more than a decade, the poverty rate declined to about 23% and extreme poverty was limited to 3.5% of the population. Above all, the greatest achievement of Mr. Chavez on domestic front is the changed mindset he created among common Venezuelaians about themselves and their country.
To the outer world, Chavez aligned himself with China, Russia, Iran, Libya, Cuba, and in the process moved his country away from the USA. He developed personal rapport with Ahmedi Nijad of Iran, Bashir ul Assad of Syria and Qaddafi of Libya and above all his intimacy to Cuba’s Feudal Castro pushed his country away from Washington.
He created quite a stir through his U.N Assembly speech on 17 Sep 2005, where he openly criticized American militarism, capitalism, and terrorism. In his speech, he made specific remarks to the U.S President George Bush particularly in relation to the handling of Hurricane Katrina and called him a “devil,” thus annoying many and making friends with few others.
After his speech, an Arab ambassador, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said, “Obviously people are pleased with what he said, but they cannot express themselves as frankly as he does.”
Apart from all the good things done by Chavez, not everything was perfect about him. He, like all humans had his own weaknesses and many across the globe did not agree with his ideas and practices. His total authoritarian approach, lavish life style, and controversial diplomatic skills that isolated Venezuela in the comity of nations forged many enemies both in home and abroad.
Lastly ,dear Venezuelaians, now when thousands of you, dressed in characteristic red shirt flocks to bid farewell to your beloved leader, as always, he must be smiling somewhere in the skies for a job well done. Amidst his final journey, I can listen to Chavez’s last message shrouded in wisdom and vision. Unlike his enthusiastic speeches in life, you all are akin to this as a silent message.
Probably the master Venezuelaians orator has discovered posthumously that if his speech is silver then his silence would be gold. It is a message for the people of world at large like us, for the common people of his country like you and for all the Bushes, Qadaffis, and Saddams, that have yet to come.
His last message says wordlessly that, I might be dead for billions across the globe, but for the common Venezuelaians at home, in every nook and corner, from the streets of Caracas to the countryside, I breathe alive. My love was for those who loved my motherland and respected its people, and my hatred will remain for those who were hostile to it. Death is only the matter of changing location from being on the Venezuela’s land, to shifting underneath it.
So dear Venezuelaians, ask yourself a simple question, “Is Chavez Dead?” Your heart will echo the truth that he has only moved from being in front of your eyes, to the depth of your hearts. And the residents of hearts never die.