The End : Obama’s last day in White House

After eight historic years as America’s first black president, Obama departed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and prepared to hand over the keys not to America’s first female president in Hillary Clinton, as he hoped and expected, but to Donald Trump.


Battling towards the edges of Mosul

ISIL expanded its attacks on Monday against the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, trying to relieve pressure on its own defences around Mosul, the group’s last major urban stronghold in the country. About 80 villages and town held by ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) were retaken in the first week of the offensive, bringing Iraqi and Kurdish forces closer to the edge of the city itself – where the battle will be hardest fought.
The Mosul campaign, which aims to crush the Iraqi portion of ISIL’s declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, may become the biggest battle yet in the 13 years of turmoil triggered by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some 1.5 million residents remain in the city, and worst-case forecasts see up to a million being uprooted, according to the United Nations. UN aid agencies say the fighting has so far forced about 7,400 people to flee their homes.

Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for Mavi Murmara Attack

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan an...
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Dec. 7, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said he “expressed apology” to Turkey for any error that led to the death of nine Turkish nationals in 2010 in the Gaza flotilla incident. 
Netanyahu also said on Friday that Israel has also agreed to compensate the families of the victims.
In a phone call between Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “the two agreed to normalisation between the countries, including returning ambassadors and cancelling legal proceedings against IDF [Israeli army] soldiers,” the statement said.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu apologised to the Turkish people over every mistake that could have led to the loss of lives and agreed to complete the agreeement with compensation.”
Netanyahu also told Erdogan that Israel had “substantially” lifted restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into the Palestinian territories, including Gaza.
During the phone call, Erdogan underlined the importance of strong cooperation and friendship between Turkey and Israel, his office said.
“Erdogan told [Israeli premier] Binyamin Netanyahu that he valued centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations”.
The White House said President Barack Obama has congratulated Netanyahu over the call, in which he apologised for “operational mistakes”. Obama has reportedly arranged the call during his first visit to Israel as president.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Jerusalem, described Netayahu’s apology as “an incredible development” adding that it would be seen as a “huge achievement” of the Obama administration.
Johnston also said that it is a “great win for Turkey,” which has been demanding the apology. 
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s Elif Ural, reporting from Istanbul, said that Hamas has sent a message expressing disappointment that Turkey has accepted the apology. 
Commando raid
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla of six humanitarian ships on their way to Gaza.
Source : Aljazeera English
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Died

 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a two-year battle with cancer, ending the socialist leader’s 14-year rule of the South American country, Vice President Nicolas Maduro has said in a televised speech.
Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast on Tuesday.
“In the immense pain of this historic tragedy that has affected our fatherland, we call on all the compatriots to be vigilant for peace, love, respect and tranquility,” Maduro said.
Maduro said the government had deployed the armed forces and police “to accompany and protect our people and guarantee the peace”.
Elias Jaua, the foreign minister, said Chavez’s hand-picked successor Maduro would take over as interim leader pending the next election, declaring: “It is the mandate that comandante President Hugo Chavez gave us.”
Venezuela’s constitution, however, specifies that the speaker of the National Assembly, currently Diosdado Cabello, should assume the interim presidency if a president can’t be sworn in.

Military commanders quickly pledged loyalty to Maduro.

Defence Minister Diego Molero said the armed forces would defend the constitution and respect Chavez’s wishes.

The authorities said a new vote would be called within 30 days.
Chavez’s body will be taken to a military academy on Wednesday, where he will lie in state until a memorial service with foreign leaders on Friday. The government has announced seven days of mourning.
صدر ہوگو شاویز وینزویلا کے صدر تھے ایک مرتبہ اقوام متحدہ کی جنرل اسمبلی میں انہوں نے صدر بش کی طرف اشارہ کر کے کہا تھا کہ یہ کتا ہے اور اسی کی وجہ سے آج دنیا کا امن تباہ ہو رہا ہے

Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who lost to Chavez in October last year, said: “This is not the time for differences. This is the time for unity, the time for peace,” he said, insisting he and Chavez were “adversaries, but never enemies”.

Global reactions

Messages of condolences for Chavez’s death came from around the world.

US President Barack Obama, in a statement, called Chavez’s passing as a “challenging time” for Venezuela.

“The United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” Obama said.
“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, said he is “conveying condolence” to the Venezuelan president’s “family and the people of Venezuela”, according to Al Jazeera’s James Bays, who was reporting from New York.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, also issued as statement describing Chavez’s death as a “tragedy”.
“He was a great politician for his country and for the world as a whole,” Churkin said.     
Meanwhile, a teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez’s closest allies in Latin America and most loyal disciples, declared that “Chavez is more alive than ever.”
“Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation,” Morales said on Tuesday in a televised speech. “Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors.”

Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Caracas, said “millions of people” are expected to attend the funeral.
“Chavez is known as a guy who could bring out his supporters and that is what’s going to happen,” Elizondo said. “He is such a big figure here in Venezuela, you cannot overstate it. He is larger than life”.
Much of the capital, Caracas, was quiet overnight, with streets deserted especially in richer parts of the capital. Most shops locked their doors as the news spread, fearing looting.

Chavez easily won a new six-year term at an election in October and his death shocked millions of supporters.

“He was our father,” said Nancy Jotiya, 56, in Caracas’ central Plaza Bolivar. “He taught us to defend ourselves. Chavismo is not over! We are the people; we will fight!”

Confrontational style
During more than 14 years in office, Chavez routinely challenged the status quo at home and internationally.
Chavez polarised Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor.
The Leftist leader repeatedly proved himself a political survivor. As an army paratroop commander, he led a failed coup in 1992, then was pardoned and elected president in 1998. He survived a coup against his own presidency in 2002 and won re-election two more times.

The burly president electrified crowds with his booming voice, often wearing the bright red of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela or the fatigues and red beret of his army days.
Before his struggle with cancer, he appeared on television almost daily, talking for hours at a time and often breaking into song of philosophical discourse.
Chavez used his country’s vast oil wealth to launch social programs that include state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs.
Poverty declined during Chavez’s presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, but critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy.
Inflation soared and the homicide rate rose to among the highest in the world.
The populist leader of oil-rich Venezuela became Latin America’s most vocal and controversial leader and was Washington’s chief antagonist in the region.

Source : Aljazeera English
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Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928 in Kafr-El Meselha, Egypt. In 1972, President Anwar el-Sadat appointed him commander of the air force. Three years later, Sadat named him vice president. On October 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated and Mubarak became president of Egypt. He held the position until February 2011, when demonstrations across Egypt forced him to step down.
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak, known as Hosni Mubarak, was born on May 4, 1928 in Kafr-El Meselha, Egypt. The son of a government official, Mubarak began pursuing a military career path at a young age. He completed his studies at the Military Academy in 1949, and furthered his education at the Air Force Academy, where he learned to be a pilot. During his time at the Air Force Academy, Mubarak traveled to the Soviet Union to get some hands-on experience with their aircraft, which was also used in Egypt.
After graduating from the academy, Mubarak worked as a flight instructor. He rose through the ranks in the Egyptian Air Force, eventually becoming its director in 1966. In 1972, President Anwar el-Sadat appointed Mubarak as chief commander. Mubarak showed a talent for military strategy, distinguishing himself during the Yom Kippur War with Israel in 1973.

Political Career

In 1975, Mubarak was selected to serve as Sadat’s vice president. He became active in negotiations with other powers in the region. On October 6, 1981, Mubarak was sitting next to Sadat when he killed by Muslim extremists during a military parade. He was elected president of Egypt the following week.
As president, Mubarak was an influential force in the Middle East, helping with negotiations on several issues. He supported Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and U.S. efforts in the region, including the Persian Gulf Crisis. Within Egypt, however, Mubarak faced growing unrest during his time as president. Many objected to his restrictive regime, and sought greater personal and political freedoms. He survived two assassination attempts in the 1990s.

Final Years as President

Beginning in January 2011, Mubarak faced increasing pressure to step down from office. Crowds of protestors filled the streets of Cairo, demanding for the end of his presidency and for democratic reforms. His regime attempted to end the protests through force, resulting in the deaths of several civilians. American PresidentBarack Obama was just one of the world leaders who offered his support to the protesters. He called for Mubarak to step down as Egypt’s president, saying “an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now.” After weeks of intense pressure, Mubarak finally agreed to resign on February 11, 2011. He and his family left Cairo and sought refuge at their home in the resort town Sharm el-Sheikh.
Newly ousted Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were taken into custody in April 2011, as they were being investigated on corruption and abuse of power, among other charges. After being taken in custody, Mubarak had a “mild heart attack” during questioning.

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Obama’s War

Redefining Victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Since the United States first dispatched troops to Afghanistan in October 2001, the war in Afghanistan has been an orphan of U.S. policy. But with the release last week of a revamped U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, the conflict has, by default, become Barack Obama’s war.
In a Foreign Affairs essay from November/December 2001, I chronicled the disasters that have befallen all foreign invaders of Afghanistan, from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union. Now, more than seven years into the U.S. intervention, the Obama administration must confront many of the same problems faced by all previous occupiers of this rugged land. How the United States manages its presence there over the next year will determine if it can break the pattern.
When Obama announced his policy for the region, he did not speak of a U.S. exit strategy — a wise decision, as doing so would have diminished the United States’ already limited ability to influence events in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Washington’s allies are deeply suspicious that the United States will once again retire from the field, leaving them holding the bag. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, those fighting the United States are prepared to hunker down and wait for when they sense a U.S. withdrawal policy is in the wind. If the United States were to declare an exit strategy up front, it would only play to those instincts and make the already long odds of success even longer.
Others — especially the anti-war wing of the Democratic party — fear that Obama’s strategy risks pushing the United States deeper into the bog of Afghanistan. But, in fact, the United States is already about as deep in the Afghan bog as a foreign military enterprise can get. The president’s plan and the team that will execute it — Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Richard Holbrooke, and David Petraeus — must have a fresh approach and a touch of boldness if they are to have any chance of success. 
The United States is already about as deep in the Afghan bog as a foreign military enterprise can get.
At the moment, the snows are melting in the high mountain passes along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the new fighting season will soon find its rhythm. As part of the Obama administration’s strategy, the United States will dispatch another 17,000 soldiers to the volatile southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar and an additional 4,000 troops to train Afghan security forces.
These reinforcements will bring the total number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 60,000, with NATO countries providing another 30,000 soldiers. Some in Congress — particularly those who supported the troop “surge” in Iraq — have called for a similar increase in troop levels in Afghanistan. These calls, however, ignore the harsh constraints all foreign armies in Afghanistan have faced over the centuries — the nature of Afghanistan’s Pashtun fighters and the tortured terrain that offers them a home-field advantage from hell. 
The Soviet Union had 120,000 troops in the country for most of its decade-long occupation, from 1979 to 1989. In the end, it lost. After-action assessments conducted in the Soviet Union and United States of the Soviet failure concluded that about 500,000 troops would have been needed to “pacify” Afghanistan. And even if the Red Army could have mustered some of the extra troops, the country’s terrain would have blocked their deployment; a labyrinth of roadless mountains and twisting valleys denied the Soviet Union the capacity to effectively supply a force larger than about 120,000 soldiers. Two decades later, these realities have not changed much for the current U.S.-led effort.
In June 2008, General Dan McNeill, the former commander of the International Security Assistance Force, told Der Spiegel that it would take 400,000 troops to mollify Afghanistan. Although McNeill’s assertion was challenged at the time by some in the Bush administration, the Pentagon today would probably put the number of troops needed to bring calm to the country — the military solution — even higher: at approximately half a million. These numbers are simply beyond contemplation for the United States and NATO.
In early April, NATO members pledged an additional 5,000 troops and trainers for Afghanistan. Even if these numbers actually materialize, however, they will have little effect on the combat tempo of the war. Some Pentagon officials quietly acknowledge that even the planned increase of U.S. troop levels by another 21,000 may only replace departing NATO forces over the next two years.
With a military solution effectively out of reach, the immediate task for the Obama administration will be to redefine its mission. The first step would be to reclassify its adversaries in Afghanistan and the border areas of Pakistan. Committed al Qaeda fighters should be shown no quarter. The Taliban, however, range from irreconcilable Salafist fanatics and narco-traffickers to bored punks carrying Kalashnikovs for less than ten dollars a day. Although a small percentage of hardened fighters may need to be hunted down, most Taliban members and sympathizers should be viewed as targets for reconciliation.
During the Bush administration, U.S. efforts at reconciliation with Afghan adversaries were half-hearted at best and either ignorant or dismissive of the rich history of Afghan deal-making. During the Soviet occupation, for example, Ahmad Shah Masoud, a leader in the anti-Soviet resistance, maintained contact with Soviet military intelligence and was able to work out temporary ceasefires when it suited both sides. In recent years, similar agreements between rivals such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahideen leader and now militant commander, and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former pro-Soviet warlord and an influential leader of Afghanistan’s Uzbek community, suggest that the harshest foes can reconcile, however fleetingly. The United States can provide the security conditions for such reconciliation efforts to work — indeed, this may become the prime objective of coalition forces in the coming months.
But it is the Afghans, particularly leaders in the Afghan National Army, who will have to lead. National elections are now set for August. Coalition forces must immediately begin to create security conditions that will allow all Afghans — not just those in the so-called quiet areas — to go to the polls. Without a significant Pashtun turnout in the east and south, the result of the election will be ethnically skewed and almost certain to fuel a continued sense of disenfranchisement and an armed resistance among the Pashtuns. This is especially dangerous given that the election is already viewed by many Afghans as a product of American manipulation.
The United States has declared that it will not support or oppose any candidate for the Afghan presidency. But these declarations of neutrality are undermined by Washington’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Afghan Supreme Court’s decision allowing Hamid Karzai to extend his current term from the end of May — when it expires — until the August elections. The Obama administration’s approval of the court’s decision is already being interpreted in Pashtun circles as coded support for Karzai’s reelection.
Ideally, the Afghan people will elect as their leader in August an admired Pashtun figure — preferably a respected veteran of the resistance against the Soviet occupation. This would give the majority Pashtun population a stake in the political process and initiate the first steps toward national reconciliation. In addition, a strong Pashtun president would be able to develop an indigenous security solution, pursue a dialogue with those Pashtuns bearing arms against government and coalition forces, and be less confrontational with Pakistan.
With a military solution effectively out of reach, the immediate task for the Obama administration will be to redefine its mission.
No matter who is elected president, Kabul will have to adjust the relationship it has with other power centers in the provinces. The appointment of provincial governors by the central government has created a cronyism that encourages runaway corruption in the country. Local elections for governors would lessen the opportunities for corruption and improve regional security — both of which would go a long way toward aiding ongoing reconstruction efforts.    
To realize its goals in Afghanistan, the United States will also have to address instability in Pakistan. The war is in essence a Pashtun insurgency that draws fighters from a pool of 15 million ethnic Pashtuns in Afghanistan and 25 million more in Pakistan. It is the same population that worked closely with Pakistan and the United States as it fought the Soviet Army two decades ago. This time, however, the Pakistani government has sided with the foreign forces in Afghanistan, and as a result, the Pashtun insurgency has now spread to Islamabad’s doorstep.
Among many Pakistanis, repeated U.S. lectures about the battle with extremists being as much Pakistan’s war as it is the United States’ are wearing thin. These warnings might elicit more understanding if they included U.S. acknowledgement of the cause-and-effect relationship between Pakistan’s problems within its borders and past U.S. military strategies in Afghanistan. A little honesty on the part of the United States would go a long way.   
Regardless of the calls from some members of Congress for a get-tough approach to Islamabad, there is simply no alternative to a strong U.S. alliance with Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of supplies vital to the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. The United States is now negotiating with Russia and the Central Asian republics for new supply routes, but they are geographically complex and would come with great logistical costs, not to mention the surely Faustian deal that Russia would likely pursue in exchange for helping U.S. forces in the area of its lost empire.
As the United States deepens its relationship with Pakistan, it will also have to engage India as a regional player in Afghanistan. This should include a frank conversation among India, Iran, Pakistan, and the United States on India’s growing involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistan has always sought — but never fully achieved — a “safe” western flank in Afghanistan as a hedge against India, its traditional adversary. Pakistanis at all levels view India’s activities in Afghanistan — such as road-building projects, development programs, and military cooperation — as a security threat. Unless the United States takes those concerns seriously, any U.S. effort to convince Pakistan to move more forcefully against Islamic militants in its hinterlands will be undermined.
Every foreign power to enter Afghanistan in the last 2,500 years has faced these challenges in one form or another. All failed to overcome them. The likelihood of the United States breaking this pattern is slight. It is becoming clear, however, that the Obama administration at least understands the odds it faces.

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Hugo Chávez

English: Hugo Chávez in Porto Alegre, Brazil. ...
English: Hugo Chávez in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Jan/26/2003. Português: Porto Alegre (RS), 26/01/2003 (Agência Brasil – ABr) – Ao lado do governador do Rio Grande do Sul, Germano Rigotto (esq.), o presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, acena para multidão na sacada do Palácio Piratini, sede do governo estadual. (Foto: Victor Soares/ABr – hor-61) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈuɣo rafaˈel ˈtʃaβes ˈfɾ]; born 28 July 1954) is the current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Following his own political ideology of Bolivarianism and “Socialism for the 21st Century“, he has focused on implementing socialist reforms in the country as a part of a social project known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has seen the implementation of a new constitutionparticipatory democratic councils, the nationalisation of several key industries, increased government funding of health care and education, and significant reductions in poverty, according to government figures.[1]
Born into a working-class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, Chávez became a career military officer, and after becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system, he founded the secretive Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200) in the early 1980s to work towards overthrowing it. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez government in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Getting out of prison after two years, he founded a social democratic political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998. He subsequently introduced a new constitution which increased rights for marginalised groups and altered the structure of Venezuelan government, and was re-elected in 2000. During his second presidential term, he introduced a system of Bolivarian MissionsCommunal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives, as well as a program of land reform, whilst also nationalising various key industries. On 7 October 2012, Chávez won his country’s presidential election for a third time, defeating Henrique Capriles, and was elected for another six-year term.[2]
Chávez describes his policies to be anti-imperialist, and he is a vocal critic of neoliberalism and laissez-faire capitalism more generally, Chávez has been a prominent adversary of the United States’ foreign policy.[3] Allying himself strongly with the Communist governments of Fidel and then Raúl Castro in Cuba and the Socialist governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, his presidency is seen as a part of the socialist “pink tide” sweeping Latin America. He has supported Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and was instrumental in setting up the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South, and the regional television network TeleSur. Chávez is a highly controversial and divisive figure both at home and abroad.
On 30 June 2011, Chávez stated that he was recovering from a 10 June operation to remove an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells.[4] He required a second operation in December 2012.[5]
Chávez was to have been sworn in on January 10, 2013, but the National Assembly of Venezuela has agreed to postpone the inauguration to allow him time to recuperate and return from a third medical treatment trip to Cuba.[6]

Early life
Childhood: 1954–70
Further information: Early life of Hugo Chávez
SabanetaBarinas, where Chávez was born and raised.
Hugo Chávez was born on 28 July 1954 in his paternal grandmother Rosa Inéz Chávez’s home, a modest three-room house located in the rural villageSabanetaBarinas State. The Chávez family were of AmerindianAfro-Venezuelan, and Spanish descent.[7] His parents, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez andElena Frías de Chávez, were workinglower middle class schoolteachers who lived in the small village of Los Rastrojos. Hugo was born the second of seven children, including their eldest, Adán Chávez.[8][9] The couple lived in poverty, leading them to send Hugo and Adán to live with their grandmother Rosa,[10] whom Hugo would later describe as being “a pure human being… pure love, pure kindness.”[11] She was a devout Roman Catholic, and Hugo was an altar boy at a local church.[12] Hugo described his childhood as “poor…very happy”, and experienced “humility, poverty, pain, sometimes not having anything to eat”, and “the injustices of this world.”[13]
Attending the Julián Pino Elementary School, Chávez’s hobbies included drawing, painting, baseball and history. He was particularly interested in the 19th-century federalist general Ezequiel Zamora, in whose army his own great-great-grandfather had served.[14][15] In the mid-1960s, Hugo, his brother and their grandmother moved to the city of Barinas so that the boys could attend what was then the only high school in the rural state, the Daniel O’Leary High School.[16]
Military Academy: 1971–75
Aged seventeen, Chávez decided to study at the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in Caracas. At the Academy, he was a member of the first class that was following a restructured curriculum known as the Andrés Bello Plan. This plan had been instituted by a group of progressive, nationalistic military officers who believed that change was needed within the military. This new curriculum encouraged students to learn not only military routines and tactics but also a wide variety of other topics, and to do so civilian professors were brought in from other universities to give lectures to the military cadets.[17][18][19] Living in Caracas, he saw more of the endemic poverty faced by working class Venezuelans, something that echoed the poverty he had experienced growing up, and he has maintained that this experience only made him further committed to achieving social justice.[20][21] He also began to get involved in local activities outside of the military school, playing both baseball and softball with the Criollitos de Venezuela team, progressing with them to the Venezuelan National Baseball Championships. Other hobbies that he undertook at the time included writing numerous poems, stories and theatrical pieces, painting[22] and researching the life and political thought of 19th-century South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar.[23]He also became interested in the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara (1928–67) after reading his memoir The Diary of Che Guevara, although he also read books by a wide variety of other figures.[24]
In 1974 he was selected to be a representative in the commemorations for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ayacucho in Peru, the conflict in which Simon Bolívar’s lieutenant, Antonio José de Sucre, defeated royalist forces during the Peruvian War of Independence. It was in Peru that Chávez heard the leftist president, General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1910–1977), speak, and inspired by Velasco’s ideas that the military should act in the interests of the working classes when the ruling classes were perceived as corrupt,[25] he “drank up the books [Velasco had written], even memorising some speeches almost completely.”[26] Befriending the son of Panamanian President Omar Torrijos (1929–1981), another leftist military general, Chávez subsequently visited Panama, where he met with Torrijos, and was impressed with his land reform program that was designed to benefit the peasants. Being heavily influenced by both Torrijos and Velasco, he saw the potential for military generals to seize control of a government when the civilian authorities were perceived as serving the interests of only the wealthy elites.[25][27] In contrast to military presidents like Torrijos and Velasco however, Chávez became highly critical of Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing general who had recently seized control in Chile with the aid of the American CIA.[28] Chávez would later relate that “With Torrijos, I became a Torrijist. With Velasco I became a Velasquist. And with Pinochet, I became an anti-Pinochetist.”[29] In 1975, Chávez graduated from the military academy, being rated one of the top graduates of the year (eight out of seventy five).[30][31][32]
Early military career: 1976–81
Further information: Military career of Hugo Chávez
I think that from the time I left the academy I was oriented toward a revolutionary movement… The Hugo Chávez who entered there was a kid from the hills, a Ilanero with aspirations of playing professional baseball. Four years later, a second-lieutenant came out who had taken the revolutionary path. Someone who didn’t have obligations to anyone, who didn’t belong to any movement, who was not enrolled in any party, but who knew very well where I was headed.
Hugo Chávez.[33]
Following his graduation, Chávez was stationed as a communications officer at a counterinsurgency unit in Barinas,[34] although the Marxist-Leninist insurgency which the army was sent to combat had already been eradicated from that state, leaving the unit with much spare time. Chávez himself played in a local baseball team, wrote a column for the local newspaper, organized bingo games and judged at beauty pageants.[35] At one point he found in an abandoned car riddled with bullet holes a stash of Marxist literature that apparently had belonged to insurgents many years before. He went on to read these books, which included titles by such theoreticians as Karl MarxVladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, but his favourite was a work entitled The Times of Ezequiel Zamora, written about the 19th-century federalist general whom Chávez had admired as a child.[36]These books further convinced Chávez of the need for a leftist government in Venezuela, later remarking that “By the time I was 21 or 22, I made myself a man of the left.”[37]
In 1977, Chávez’s unit was transferred to Anzoátegui, where they were involved in battling the Red Flag Party, a Marxist-Hoxhaist insurgency group.[38] After intervening to prevent the beating of an alleged insurgent by other soldiers,[39] Chávez began to have his doubts about the army and their methods in using torture.[37] At the same time, he was becoming increasingly critical of the corruption in both the army and in the civilian government, coming to believe that despite the wealth being produced by the country’s oil reserves, Venezuela’s poor masses were not receiving their share, something he felt to be inherently un-democratic. In doing so, he began to sympathise with the Red Flag Party and their cause, if not their violent methods.[40]
In 1977, he founded a revolutionary movement within the armed forces, in the hope that he could one day introduce a leftist government to Venezuela: the Venezuelan People’s Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación del Pueblo de Venezuela, or ELPV), was a secretive cell within the military that consisted of him and a handful of his fellow soldiers. Although they knew that they wanted a middle way between the right wing policies of the government and the far left position of the Red Flag, they did not have any plans of action for the time being.[39][41][42] Nevertheless, hoping to gain an alliance with civilian leftist groups in Venezuela, Chávez then set about clandestinely meeting various prominent Marxists, including Alfredo Maneiro (the founder of the Radical Cause) andDouglas Bravo, despite having numerous political differences with them.[43][44] At this time, Chávez married a working-class woman named Nancy Colmenares, with whom he would go on to have three children: Rosa Virginia (born September 1978), Maria Gabriela (born March 1980) and Hugo Rafael (born October 1983).[45]
Revolutionary activity
Later military career and the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200: 1982–91
Five years after his creation of the ELPV, Chávez went on to form a new secretive cell within the military, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200 (EBR-200), later redesignated the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200).[17][46][47] Taking inspiration from three Venezuelans whom Chávez deeply admired, Ezequiel Zamora (1817–1860), Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) and Simón Rodríguez (1769–1854), these historical figures became known as the “three roots of the tree” of the MBR-200.[48][49] Later describing the group’s foundation, Chávez would state that “the Bolivarian movement that was being born did not propose political objectives… Its goals were imminently internal. Its efforts were directed in the first place to studying the military history of Venezuela as a source of a military doctrine of our own, which up to then didn’t exist.”[50] However, he always hoped that the Bolivarian Movement would become politically dominant, and on his political ideas at the time, remarked that “This tree [of Bolívar, Zamora and Rodríguez] has to be a circumference, it has to accept all kinds of ideas, from the right, from the left, from the ideological ruins of those old capitalist and communist systems.”[51] Indeed, Irish political analyst Barry Cannon noted that the early Bolivarian ideology was explicitly capitalist, but that it “was a doctrine in construction, a heterogeneous amalgam of thoughts and ideologies, from universal thought, capitalism, Marxism, but rejecting the neoliberal models currently being imposed in Latin America and the discredited socialist and communist models of the old Soviet Bloc.”[52]
In 1981, Chávez, by now a captain, was assigned to teach at the military academy where he had formerly trained. Here he indoctrinated new students in his so-called “Bolivarian” ideals, and recruited those whom he felt would make good members of the MBR-200, as well as organizing sporting and theatrical events for the students. In his recruiting attempts he was relatively successful, for by the time they had graduated, at least thirty out of 133 cadets had joined it.[53] In 1984 he met a Venezuelan woman of German ancestry named Herma Marksman who was a recently divorced history teacher. Sharing many interests in common, she eventually got involved in Chávez’s movement and the two fell in love, having an affair that would last several years.[54][55]Another figure to get involved with the movement was Francisco Arias Cárdenas, a soldier particularly interested in liberation theology.[56] Cárdenas rose to a significant position within the group, although came into ideological conflict with Chávez, who believed that they should begin direct military action in order to overthrow the government, something Cárdenas thought was reckless.[57]
However, some senior military officers became suspicious of Chávez after hearing rumours about the MBR-200. Unable to dismiss him legally without proof, they re-assigned him so that he would not be able to gain any more fresh new recruits from the academy. He was sent to take command of the remote barracks at Elorza in Apure State,[58] where he got involved in the local community by organizing social events, and contacted the local indigenous tribal peoples, the Cuiva and Yaruro. Although they were distrustful due to their mistreatment at the hands of the Venezuelan army in previous decades, Chávez gained their trust by joining the expeditions of an anthropologist to meet with them. His experiences with them would later lead him to introduce laws protecting the rights of indigenous tribal peoples when he gained power many years later.[59] While on holiday, he retraced on foot the route taken by his great-grandfather, the revolutionary Pedro Pérez Delgado(known as Maisanta), to understand his family history; on that trip, he met a woman who told Chávez how Maisanta had become a local hero by rescuing an abducted girl.[60] In 1988, after being promoted to the rank of major, the high-ranking General Rodríguez Ochoa took a liking to Chávez and employed him to be his assistant at his office in Caracas.[61]
Operation Zamora: 1992
In 1989, Carlos Andrés Pérez (1922–2010), the candidate of the centrist Democratic Action Party, was elected President after promising to oppose the United States government’s Washington Consensus and financial policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Nevertheless, he did neither once he got into office, following instead the neoliberal economic policies supported by the United States and the IMF. He dramatically cut spending, put prominent men in governmental posts. Pérez’s policies angered some of the public.[62][63][64] In an attempt to stop the widespread protests and looting that followed his social spending cuts, Pérez ordered the violent repression and massacre of protesters known as El Caracazo, which “according to official figures … left a balance of 276 dead, numerous injured, several disappeared and heavy material losses. However, this list was invalidated by the subsequent appearance of mass graves”, indicating that the official death count was inadequate.[65][66][67] Pérez had used both the DISIP political police and the army to orchestrate El Caracazo. Chávez did not participate in the repression because he was then hospitalized with chicken pox, and later condemned the event as “genocide“.[68][69]
Disturbed by the Caracazo, rampant government corruption, the domination of politics by the Venezuelan oligarchy through the Punto Fijo Pact, and what he called “the dictatorship of the IMF”, Chávez began preparing for a military coup d’état,[67][70] known as Operation Zamora.[71] Initially planned for December, Chávez delayed the MBR-200 coup until the early twilight hours of 4 February 1992. On that date, five army units under Chávez’s command moved into urban Caracas with the mission of overwhelming key military and communications installations, including theMiraflores presidential palace, the defense ministry, La Carlota military airport and the Military Museum. Chávez’s immediate goal was to intercept and take custody of Pérez, who was returning to Miraflores from an overseas trip. Despite years of planning, the coup quickly encountered trouble. At the time of the coup, Chávez had the loyalty of less than 10% of Venezuela’s military forces,[72] and, because of numerous betrayals, defections, errors, and other unforeseen circumstances, Chávez and a small group of rebels found themselves hiding in the Military Museum, without any means of conveying orders to their network of spies and collaborators spread throughout Venezuela.[73] Furthermore, Chávez’s allies were unable to broadcast their prerecorded tapes on the national airwaves, during which Chávez planned to issue a general call for a mass civilian uprising against the Pérez government. Finally, Chávez’s forces were unable to capture Pérez, who managed to escape from them. Fourteen soldiers were killed, and fifty soldiers and some eighty civilians injured during the ensuing violence.[74][75][76]
Realising that the coup had failed, Chávez gave himself up to the government. On the condition that he called upon the remaining active coup members to cease hostilities, he was allowed to appear on national television, something that he insisted on doing in his military uniform. During this address, he invoked the name of national hero Simón Bolívar and declared to the Venezuelan people that “Comrades: unfortunately, for now, the objectives we had set for ourselves were not achieved in the capital city. That is, those of us here in Caracas did not seize power. Where you are, you have performed very well, but now is the time for a reflect. New opportunities will arise and the country has to head definitively toward a better future.”[77] Many viewers noted that Chávez had remarked that he had failed only “por ahora” (for now),[17][78][79][80][81] and he was immediately catapulted into the national spotlight, with many Venezuelans, particularly those from the poorer sections of society, seeing him as a figure who had stood up against government corruption and kleptocracy.[82][83][84]
Chávez was arrested and imprisoned at the San Carlos military stockade, where he remained wracked with guilt, feeling responsible for the coup’s failure.[85][86] Indeed, pro-Chávez demonstrations that took place outside of San Carlos led to his being transferred to Yare prison soon after.[87] The government meanwhile began a temporary crackdown on media supportive of Chávez and the coup.[88] A further attempted coup against the government occurred in November, which was once more defeated,[70][89] although Pérez himself was impeached a year later for malfeasance and misappropriation of funds for illegal activities.[90][91]
Political rise: 1992–98
Whilst Chávez and the other senior members of the MBR-200 were in prison, his relationship with Herma Marksman broke up in July 1993.[92] She would subsequently become a critic of Chávez.[93] In 1994, Rafael Caldera (1916–2009) of the centrist National Convergence Party was elected to the presidency, and soon after taking power, freed Chávez and the other imprisoned MBR-200 members as per his pre-election pledge. Caldera had however imposed upon them the condition that they would not return to the military, where they could potentially organise another coup.[94][95] After being mobbed by adoring crowds following his release, Chávez went on a 100-day tour of the country, promoting his Bolivarian cause of social revolution.[96] Now living off a small military pension as well as the donations of his supporters, he continued to financially support his three children and their mother despite divorcing Nancy Colmenares around this period. On his tours around the country, he would meet Marisabel Rodríguez, who would give birth to their daughter shortly before becoming his second wife in 1997.[97][98]
Travelling around Latin America in search of foreign support for his Bolivarian movement, he visited Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and finally Cuba, where the Communist leader Fidel Castro(1926–) arranged to meet him. After spending several days in one another’s company, Chávez and Castro became friends with the former describing the Cuban leader as being like a father to him.[99] Returning to Venezuela, Chávez failed to gain mainstream media attention for his political cause. Instead, he gained publicity from small, local-based newspapers and media outlets.[100]As a part of his condemnation of the ruling class, Chávez became critical of President Caldera, whose neoliberal economic policies had caused inflation and who had both suspended constitutional guarantees and arrested a number of Chávez’s supporters.[101] According to the United Nations, by 1997 the per capita income for Venezuelan citizens had fallen to US$ 2,858 from US$ 5,192 in 1990, whilst poverty levels had increased by 17.65% since 1980, and homicide and other crime rates had more than doubled since 1986, particularly in Caracas.[102] Coupled with this drop in the standard of living, widespread dissatisfaction with the representative democratic system in Venezuela had “led to gaps emerging between rulers and ruled which favoured the emergence of a populist leader”.[103]
A debate soon developed in the Bolivarian movement as to whether it should try to take power in elections or whether it should instead continue to believe that military action was the only effective way of bringing about political change. Chávez was a keen proponent of the latter view, believing that the oligarchy would never allow him and his supporters to win an election,[104] whilstFrancisco Arias Cárdenas instead insisted that they take part in the representative democratic process. Cárdenas himself proved his point when, after joining the Radical Cause socialist party, he won the December 1995 election to become governor of the oil-rich Zulia State.[105] Subsequently changing his opinion on the issue, Chávez and his supporters in the Bolivarian movement decided to found their own political party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR—Movimiento Quinta República) in July 1997 in order to support Chávez’s candidature in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998.[74][106][107][108]
The election of a leftist president in Venezuela in 1998 foreshadowed what would, in the following seven years, become a wave of successes for left-leaning presidential candidates in Latin America… Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva in Brazil in October 2002, then Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador in January 2003, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina in May 2003, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay in October 2004, Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005,Rafael Correa in Ecuador in November 2006, and then Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, also in November 2006. While some of these moderated [towards the centre or centre-right] significantly shortly after taking office, such as Gutiérrez and da Silva, they represent a wave of left-of-center leaders whose election came as a bit of a surprise given the… disorientation within the left around the world.
Gregory Wilpert, German-American political analyst (2007).[109]
1998 election
At the start of the election run-up, most polls gave Irene Sáez, then-mayor of Caracas’ richest district, Chacao, the lead. Although an independent candidate, she had the backing of one of Venezuela’s two primary political parties, Copei.[110] In opposition to her right-wing and pro-establishment views, Chávez and his followers described their aim as “laying the foundations of a new republic” to replace the existing one, which they cast as “party-dominated”; the current constitution, they argued, was no more than the “legal-political embodiment of puntofijismo“, the country’s traditional two-party patronage system.[111] This revolutionary rhetoric gained Chávez and the MVR support from a number of other leftist parties, including thePatria Para Todos (Motherland for All), the Partido Comunist Venezolano (Venezeuelan Communist Party) and the Movimiento al Socialismo(Movement for Socialism), which together fashioned a political union supporting his candidacy called the Polo Patriotic (Patriotic Pole).[108][112]
Chávez’s promises of widespread social and economic reforms won the trust and favor of a primarily poor and working class following. By May 1998, Chávez’s support had risen to 30% in polls, and by August he was registering 39%.[113] Much of his support came from his ‘strong man’ populist image and charismatic appeal.[114] This rise in popularity worried Chávez’s opponents, with the oligarchy-owned mainstream media proceeding to attack him with a series of allegations, which included the claim – which he dismissed as ridiculous – that he was a cannibal who ate children.[115] With his support increasing, and Sáez’s decreasing, both the main two political parties, Copei and Democratic Action, put their support behind Henrique Salas Römer, a Yale University-educated economist who representated the Project Venezuela party.[116]
Chávez won the election with 56.20% of the vote. Salas Römer came second, with 39.97%, whilst the other candidates, including Irene Sáez and Alfaro Ucero, gained only tiny proportions of the vote.[91][117] Academic analysis of the election showed that Chávez’s support had come primarily from the country’s poor and the “disenchanted middle class”, whose standard of living had decreased rapidly in the previous decade,[118] although at the same time much of the middle and upper class vote had instead gone to Salas Römer.[119] Following the announcement of his victory, Chávez gave a speech in which he declared that “The resurrection of Venezuela has begun, and nothing and no one can stop it.”[117]
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