by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, Chief Visionary Founder & Owner
March 14, 2013 (TSR) – The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday paid tribute to memory of the late President Hugo Chávez. The tribute comes a week after the UN Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, the Non-Aligned Movement, and CELAC – all held a minute silence to pay respects to the late revered Venezuelan leader.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic joined delegates from around the world in hailing the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías for his strong leadership, commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and advocacy on behalf of the world’s poorest.
The Assembly held a solemn meeting which began with the observation of a moment of silence in memory of the Venezuelan leader who passed away on 5 March.
“President Chávez was one of those leaders who made a difference in his country, the region and the world,” Mr. Ban said.
“His sense of solidarity with the most vulnerable and his commitment to improve the life of the most underprivileged resulted in a fierce attachment to the Millennium Development Goals,” said Mr. Ban. “He also showed solidarity toward other nations in the hemisphere.”
Perhaps most notably, the Secretary-General stated, Mr. Chávez ensured that Venezuela provided crucial assistance to Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010. “He always reminded the region of the historic debt that it owed to Haiti, the first republic to gain independence in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Ban recognized Mr. Chávez’s contribution to the peace talks in Colombia between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as the “decisive impetus” he provided for new efforts towards regional integration.
“As the process of regional integration progresses, the key role that President Chávez has had in promoting the unity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean will be present in everyone’s minds,” said the Secretary-General.
Progress in that area was clear, as illustrated by the Permanent Observer status granted to the Union of South American Nations, known as UNASUR, in 2011, Mr. Ban said. As regional integration progressed, Mr. Chávez’s role in promoting unity in Latin America and the Caribbean would be remembered.
“But perhaps President Chávez will be best remembered for his ability to connect at a human level with the most vulnerable and give voice to their aspirations,” he said.
Ban also recalled Chavez’s message when the late Venezuelan president first addressed the General Assembly in 1999, saying “On that occasion, he stated his wish that one day in the near future it would be possible to proclaim that peace, democracy and development have triumphed.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) President Vuk Jeremic also said “On behalf of the General Assembly and in my own name, allow me to offer my deepest condolences to his bereaved family and friends, the government and people of Venezuela, as well as to his many admirers throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and the rest of the world.”
“History will remember President Chavez, a charismatic leader whose progressive policies brought Venezuela’s poverty rate down from over 70 percent at the close of the 20th century to around 20 percent today,” he noted.
He lauded the commitment of Chavez to the cause of social justice, saying that Chavez had been working hard to improve the lives of Venezuelans, especially the most underprivileged amongst them.
“Under his strong leadership, Venezuela made great strides towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, to the lasting benefit of a great and proud nation,” said Mr. Jeremic, referring to the anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.
The Assembly President recalled Mr. Chávez’s “humble beginning” – being brought up in mud-floor house on the cattle-ranching plains of Barinas state – noting that this helped him “better understand and feel the pain and privations of ordinary Venezuelans.”
Jeremic also eulogized Chavez as “a vocal advocate of the Global South,” “a firm believer in the potential of the Non- Aligned Movement and the G-77 to help uplift the developing world, ” and “a driving force behind efforts to deepen Latin American and Caribbean integration.”
In addition, Jeremic renewed his commitment to deepen the relationship between Venezuela and the UNGA with the aim of strengthening the founding principles of the United Nations.
“President Chávez was a strong proponent for revitalizing the United Nations and a vocal advocate of the global South. His effort to deepen Latin American integration led to the establishment or strengthening or organizations such as Petrosur, Petrocaribe, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, UNASUR and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America”, he said.
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president since February 1999, died on March 5 at the age of 58 after a two-year battle with cancer which was first detected in his pelvis. The State Funeral for him was held in Caracas, capital of Venezuela, on March 8.
UN Officials gave dedication to Chávez ‘Strong Leadership’
Elías Jaua Milano, Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking on behalf of interim President Nicolás Maduro Moros, said Mr. Chávez was a humanist and a “transcendental man” who dedicated his life to advancing the Simon Bolivar revolution. Coming to office in 1999 by popular vote, Mr. Chavez was re-elected three times, surviving three coups d’état and several assassination attempts by imperialists. “He died victorious,” he said, stressing that “the struggle lives on!”
Under the late President’s leadership, Venezuela broke free of the reigns of the “imperialist North”, moved towards a free-trade agreement in the Americas and adopted a sovereign, independent foreign policy, Mr. Jaua Milano said. Mr. Chávez was a great force in the region, spearheading creation of the South America-Africa Cooperation Forum, the South America-Arab Forum and Petrocaribe, as well as strengthening the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). At the United Nations, he had helped strengthen the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the Non-Aligned Movement empower socialism and break the “ Washington consensus.”
The late leader also told the world it could not remain insensitive to the harsh plight of the Palestinians, and that Palestinian statehood and full United Nations membership was a historic debt of the Organization, Mr. Jaua Milano said. The United Nations and international financial institutions must be revamped to truly represent all of the world’s people and to halt the exploitation of nature and people of the South. In 2006, Mr. Chávez stressed the need to enlarge the Security Council, strengthen the General Assembly and give the South a greater voice in both.
Mr. Jaua Milano credited Mr. Chávez with reducing extreme poverty in Venezuela to 6 per cent, eradicating hunger and illiteracy, protecting the environment and providing universal access to information and communications technology — leaving a “benchmark” for the world’s oppressed people. Far-right groups attempting to disrupt the tranquillity of Venezuelan society would not prevail. The Venezuelan people alone would decide on 14 April 2013, Election Day, who would be Venezuela’s next president. Mr. Jaua Milano expressed confidence that they would ratify the 1999 Constitution — presented by Mr. Chávez during the 7 October 2012 elections.
The representative of Chad, speaking on behalf of the African Group, bowed before the memory of “this worthy son” of Venezuela, whose passing was painfully premature. Still, Mr. Chavez’s leadership and service in international affairs would not be futile. History would remember him as an advocate of the poor and would live on the lives of millions of Africans. The bond between Venezuela and Africa was very strong, as illustrated by the myriad of partnerships Mr. Chávez inspired to help better the lives of ordinary people.
The representative of Qatar, speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States, cited World Bank data, which stated the benefits Chávez’s leadership had on Venezuela’s citizens’ access to education and poverty reduction. Mr. Chávez stood by his commitment to give citizens vital health care and energy services and advocated for oppressed people worldwide. The fact that so many people attended his funeral showed how much he would be missed by his dear friends and colleagues and that his memory would live on.
The representative of Saint Lucia, speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, described Mr. Chávez as a man of “enormous character and vision”. His bold and imaginative measures had met the formidable challenges of development which were caused by high energy costs. Mr. Chávez believed his country’s resources were to be shared to promote his people’s collective development and that of the region as a whole. One of his major successes was the widening of public participation in the socioeconomic and democratic space.
Fiji’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said Mr. Chávez’s voice predated the world’s vision and under his vision Venezuela moved towards prosperity. The late leader, shaped by his own experience growing up poor, was unafraid to achieve his goals of providing housing, education and health care. “He reminded us that real progress could only be sustainable if benefits would be accrued by all and not just the privileged,” the representative said, saying Chávez’s moral values for social justice would serve as a source of inspiration.
Iran’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said Mr. Chávez would be remembered as a friend of the Movement and for putting into place policies that would improve the lives of millions of people as well as for his commitment to a just world order that would best respect international law, sovereignty, equal rights of States and self-determination of people.
Cuba’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, hailed Mr. Chávez’s untiring dedication to eradicating poverty and inequality and his tireless work to achieve a united, safe and more equal Latin America and Caribbean region. The late leader would be remembered as an honest, bold and clear-sighted revolutionary who “reincarnated Bolivar to complete his work”. Hugo Chávez died undefeated; he acted in the face of imperialism and always defended the world’s most marginalized. Cuba would remain eternally loyal to Mr. Chávez’s vision and carry on to his ideals in solidarity.
The representative of Peru, speaking on behalf of UNASUR, expressed deepest grief of the passing of the “champion” of the unity and integration of South America. He assured the Assembly that Mr. Chávez would live on in the collective memory of the people as a symbol of a generation of statesmen who promoted unity.
The representative of Guyana, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said Mr. Chávez’s vision of bringing together the region’s people was driven by his deep sense of concern for the well-being of its most disadvantaged citizens. Mr. Chávez’s advocacy for South-South cooperation and self-reliance was a bold and determined appeal for sustainable development and economic prosperity in developing countries. It challenged leaders to combat inequality and injustice at the individual, national, regional and international levels and work for the common good. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, Union of South American Nations, PetroCaribe, and Petrosur served as testimony to his work. Chávez left an “indelible” imprint on Latin America and the Caribbean.
The representative of Bolivia, speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, praised Mr. Chávez’s willingness to speak out for social justice, put his heart and soul into the service of liberating people, and, along with Fidel Castro, fight imperialism and unilateralism. The world was a better place today because of Mr. Chávez. “He knew that poverty is the first enemy to be defeated… the world must learn from him,” the representative said, noting that Mr. Chavez was the driving force behind creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, the Bank of the South, and South-South cooperation in medicine and education.
The representative of Uruguay, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), hailed Mr. Chávez as the founder of the modern democratic State of Venezuela, a main player in Latin American integration, an irreplaceable figure of the twenty-first century, and as one of what Bertolt Brecht called “the indispensable ones”. Mr. Chávez worked to make the world a fairer place for all humanity, free of domination and oppression. Achieving those goals was an imperative.
Egypt’s representative said the Arab world would never forget Ms. Chávez’s principled positions on and solidarity with Palestine and the occupied Arab territories. Echoing those sentiments, Syria’s representative praised Mr. Chávez’s stance on the Occupied Syrian Golan and support for the Syrian Government and people, for whom his passing was a great loss.
Also paying tribute to Mr. Chávez today were representatives of Moldova (on behalf of Eastern European States), Finland (on behalf of the Western European and other States), Chile, Seychelles, Argentina, El Salvador, Belarus and Brazil.
Following the tribute to Mr. Chávez, the Assembly decided to change the designation of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP, adopting by consensus a draft resolution to that effect.
After that action, the representatives of Brazil and Viet Nam lauded the change, saying the new designation, called for by the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — “Rio+20” — would better reflect the body’s universal character and make it more inclusive. Brazil’s representative noted with concern, however, that the decision had been submitted directly to the Assembly plenary without discussion of the Governing Council’s report by the Economic and Social Council or the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).
Indonesia’s representative also noted her delegation’s concerns about procedural matters had led to the Assembly’s consideration of the matter. She also stressed that it was her delegation’s view that the Assembly could not “pick and choose” the decisions it took regarding the UNEP Governing Council that had emanated from the Rio+20 conference.
Full Text of Secretary-General’s remarks at General Assembly’s tribute to the memory of President Hugo Chávez Frías of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
It is an honour to join with all of you in paying tribute to the work and memory of H.E. President Hugo Chávez Frías.
President Chávez was one of those leaders who made a difference in his country, the region and the world.
His sense of solidarity with the most vulnerable and his commitment to improve the life of the most underprivileged resulted in a fierce attachment to the Millennium Development Goals.
He also showed solidarity toward other nations in the hemisphere.
Perhaps most notably, President Chávez ensured that Venezuela provided crucial assistance to Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010.
He always reminded the region of the historic debt that it owed to Haiti, the first republic to gain independence in Latin America and the Caribbean.
I also want to recognize the contribution that President Chávez made to the peace talks in Colombia between the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Basing himself on an eminently Latin American vision, President Chávez provided decisive impetus for new efforts towards regional integration.
The United Nations has followed with interest and appreciation the advancements in regional integration for which he gave momentum.
The progress in this area is clear, as is illustrated by the Permanent Observer status before the General Assembly that the Union of South American Nations — UNASUR — acquired in 2011.
As the process of regional integration progresses, the key role that President Chávez has had in promoting the unity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean will be present in everyone’s minds.
But perhaps President Chávez will be best remembered for his ability to connect at a human level with the most vulnerable and give voice to their aspirations.
In memorializing President Chávez, I would like to recall his message when he first addressed the General Assembly in 1999.
On that occasion, he stated his wish that one day in the near future it would be possible to proclaim that “peace, democracy and development have triumphed”.
Let us honour the legacy of President Chávez by renewing our pledge to work toward these noble goals.
I thank you.