Caracas, 7th December 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan political and media leaders have marked Nelson Mandela’s passing with tributes, while President Nicolas Maduro has declared three days of mourning.
The former South African president and lifelong fighter against apartheid passed away on Thursday.
Under South Africa’s institutionally racist apartheid regime, in 1962 then lawyer Mandela was imprisoned for life for conspiracy against the government. In the 1980s both the governments of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher regarded Mandela as a “terrorist”.
In reaction to the international anti-apartheid campaign Mandela was released in 1990. He was elected as president of South Africa in 1994 and spent his presidential term dismantling the formal apartheid system.
Yesterday the Venezuelan government and political leaders paid tribute to Mandela’s life and legacy.
Maduro wrote a formal letter to South African president Jacob Zuma, in which he said that the Venezuelan people “feel the physical departure of Nelson Mandela most deeply”.
“Madiba [Mandela] was and will continue being an…example of all human virtues; he was and will continue being a luminous paradigm of what the exercise of politics should be. He personified the struggle without truce for justice and equality, the everyday fight for peace, the historic battle against racism,” wrote Maduro.
The Venezuelan president likened Mandela’s struggle to that of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and further said of Mandela, “His imperishable legacy is projected in the free South Africa, the South African homeland for all; but Mandela is also the struggle for a world of equals, a world in which many worlds fit...[he is] the sun of the history that we will make and we are already making”.
In an interview yesterday with state channel VTV, Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chanderton, recalled the solidarity expressed in Venezuela for Mandela during his imprisonment.
The ambassador also argued that Mandela’s arrival to the South African presidency helped inspire Hugo Chavez’s presidential victory in Venezuela in 1998.
“[At that time] we turned to look inside our own house and we began to recognise the veiled racial discrimination in Venezuela and the social exclusion of millions of Afro-Venezuelans…meanwhile the fantasy or lie was maintained that we didn’t have racial prejudices in our country”.
As Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez – who had African and indigenous roots – pursued greatly improved relations with South Africa and Africa more widely, signing a number of cooperation accords with countries across the continent.
In his interview, Chanderton expressed his opinion that, “Today the fight against racism is one of the unfinished tasks of the Bolivarian revolution…that our president Nicolas Maduro is intensifying, inspired by the immense ethical inheritance that Hugo Chavez left us”.
The leader of Venezuela’s conservative opposition, Henrique Capriles, also joined the tributes to mark Mandela’s passing.
“An example for the world has passed away, Mandela! Symbol of the struggle against apartheid, may God have him in his glory and may we never forget his legacy,” he tweeted.