by Yaima Puig Meneses & Leticia Martínez Hernández
April 23, 2013 (TSR) – “I am the first Chavista President, the first worker to become President in the history of this country. I hope to uphold with dignity the values of our homeland and make the dreams of Hugo Chávez Frías a reality, the dreams of a greater [Latin American] homeland, secure, in peace. I assume the Presidency with courage, love and a desire for peace,” Nicolás Maduro asserted April 19, at the conclusion of the ceremony inaugurating him as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
At several points during his remarks, the new President honored the life and work of Comandante Chávez, who he called a giant, and described as immortal. “Chávez left us a free homeland; he left us a model, a plan for the country with five historic objectives which the people ratified with this election,” he said.
Maduro called for unity within the country and assured those who did not vote for him, “We respect you; we recognize you; we appeal to you to not let yourselves be inculcated with so much intolerance and hate.” He did, however, reiterate that there would be no impunity for those who commit crimes, for those who recently killed the loved ones of eight Venezuelan families.
He affirmed that during the six years of his administration, new missions would be launched, among them the Grand Electricity Mission, while at the same time all existing programs will be reviewed and strengthened. He said that corruption and bureaucratism will be confronted to make the revolution one of efficiency and economic growth, to reach higher levels of development and continue the construction of socialism in Venezuela.
Referring to the xenophobic campaign unleashed against Cuban collaborators in the country, after the April 14 elections, he commented that Cuba has offered Venezuela solidarity, love, health and respect, adding, “We are one people.”
Maduro reported that several Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers (CDI) were besieged by members of the opposition, alleging that Cuban doctors were hiding ballot boxes in the clinics. People in the neighborhoods, however, came out on their own to defend the centers and Cuban collaborators, “who come by the thousands” to the Venezuelan fields and towns.
Heard, in addition to Maduro’s statements, were expressions of affection from those in attendance, which included deputies, state governors, representatives of the people, Chávez family members and delegations from 61 countries, 16 of which were led by Presidents or Prime Ministers. Cuban President, Raúl Castro Ruz thanked Maduro for his kind words of affection for Cuba.
Maduro emphasized that the CDI, with many Cuban health professionals on their staffs, have state of the art equipment to serve the poor, the working people, those who have never had medical attention. “Service is provided free of charge, as our Constitution states – the best service, with the best equipment, the best doctors. Not one bolivar is charged there to any man or woman from this homeland, they will never be charged,” he said.
“That is why,” he continued, “in response to this aggression, we are now going to build more CDI. There will be more heath care, more doctors.”
“Cuba deserves all of our love, their Revolution is the child of Martí, of Bolívar, of Fidel, and deeply loved by Hugo Chávez. It is a well-respected country. It is no accident that Cuba today holds the Presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and no accident that, in the United Nations, the majority of countries vote in favor of ending the blockade.”
The culmination of the swearing-in ceremony included the singing of Venezuela’s national anthem, in the voice of Comandante Chávez, filling the semi-circular hall with emotion. Equally moving was the moment in which María Gabriela, daughter of the eternal Bolivarian leader, and Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly awarded Maduro the presidential sash and liberators pendant.
As night fell, Maduro moved to the Paseo de los Próceres boulevard, accompanied by members of his Cabinet, as well as several heads of state, among them President Raúl Castro, to attend the parade, with which the Bolivarian National Armed Forces expressed their absolute loyalty to the new President and recognized him as Commander in Chief.
Visibly moved, Maduro recalled that this was the first military parade at this emblematic site he had attended without Chávez, reiterating that the former President’s memory remains alive.
First published in Granma.