Chávez and Sabino Show the Way

Compañeros, the greatest libertarian teacher of the Venezuelan people has died, and two days earlier an equally important teacher… Chávez and Sabino show the way.


Compañeros, the greatest libertarian[1] teacher of the Venezuelan people has died, and two days earlier an equally important teacher… Chávez and Sabino show the way.[2]

We are Chávez!, of course we are, brother, we proudly accept this final proposal of yours with the same passion as millions of others. We are Chávez! means being he who took up freely and with unbridled passion the position in life that life itself offered up, able to transgress any offense, indignity and oppression reproduced in the place from which we build our lives. Your lot in life was yours alone, and you first recognized this as a soldier, helping to explode the signs of genocide already inscribed in our barracks.

It doesn’t matter if you succeeded or not, and in general it doesn’t matter much how effective or not you were in concretizing the libertarian dream that flooded over you. You were a soldier and the popular insurrection brought you to power through the tricks it had already sown, you were the magnificent child of that insurrection. Since then, you surrounded yourself with buffoons and the inviolable rules of national and global order, and even drowning in all this and camouflaged by its protocols, your permanent and desperate cry to the collective was to destroy that whole damned castle full of internal enemies and the opposition (escualidos) drooling for a chance to return to it.

Chávez is passionate irreverence, love for the dream, and so I do want to be Chávez. Your messianism is not the whole of your ideological or political legacy, these are its content but not its truth, that is, there is no “messiah” in you, and much less the stupid media manipulation of your image that, whether from public or private outlets, helped to forge submission or resentment, the cult or hatred of personality. Your messianism—your decision on the act based on the transcendence and glory of the word that inspires it—can only be understood now that you have gone, its usefulness contained entirely in the person of Chávez and the marvelous, crazy, and passionate teacher that you were… thank you brother, thank you for helping me to again feel like the child of a land that anyone could fall out of love with completely. But on the contrary you taught me to see it as full of an incomprehensible magic, effectively messianic, so incomprehensible that when it explodes it can encompass entire continents and worlds, where reason explains nothing and the human miracle explains everything.

Damn it! I want to be Chávez even though I already know that I can’t achieve that!

Since you left me yesterday I feel prouder than ever to have lived this history in which you no doubt played an exceptional role. Let’s not say too much because perhaps all the power [potencia] contained in that history as well as the immense challenges and gaps that seep into our present, which are tremendous and if we aren’t careful, terrible as well, have not even begun to unfold. In any case, it is by being a part of this history and only through it that I am able to construct a beautiful meaning for that place in life that has fallen to me to occupy, and we can then be grateful that somehow or another we are protagonists in it.

But we must also be conscious that the strictly Chavista moment of that history is only “a blade of grass” in what history has sown. If Chávez was a libertarian teacher it is because today faced with his loss, millions not only mourn the terrible occasion of his death—after which we will never again feel his monstrous capacity to wrap entire peoples and nations in his passion—but moreover we begin another history that is truly that of the people, simply and strictly that of the people, of those who never had a right to history but who are today beginning to be its center.

As a result the most intense feeling that the death of compañero Hugo Chávez leaves us with, which is expressed through all of those places filled with people, stuffed into plazas, carrying the dead body he who inspired them in all likelihood to the national pantheon, is that we are at last a free people. And this regardless of the budgetary data, the structures of power and inequality in the distribution of wealth, the official national plans, or crass reality in the face of the globalized extortion of a hysterical and criminal capitalism that knows itself to be in its final stages, which seeps into every statement and government policy tied to this exploitative global order, despite calling itself “socialist.” In other words, we are a free and powerful people, wrapped in the ethic of the rebel and not the ethic of sin.

Of course it’s true that we still live amid the weakness of our social and economic condition, we are still in the hands of bankers and transnationals, mafioso bureaucracies, networks of violence, but now with a dignity gained during these years that no one can take away from us, beyond any government and still full of the incongruities that the materiality of our historical thread determines. Which is to say that we are a people that defends in the words of millions the most libertarian, egalitarian, and just cause. Read and scattered across all our barrios and communities, it is the most divinely irreverent tamunangue[3] sung in the smallest village on the most remote mountain, on the most isolated coast, in the most squalid barrio. That is your teaching, comandante, and we are forever grateful.

But who guarantees that we will maintain this hard-won strength? Let’s forget messianism, and even that collective messianism that Chávez helped forge, even if it was the best of the bunch. Very mysteriously, Sabino Romero, the cacique of Chaktapa, the historic leader of resistance by the Yukpa people and indigenous communities, was assassinated just two days before the death of comandante Chávez (this universe could not, did not want to let Chávez say goodbye to the one who he defended and supported without a shadow of a doubt). Another great libertarian teacher, but one of clashes and direct action and assuming only the front lines of combat in the endless desire of his people to regain at least part of what was expropriated from them in blood and fire by the same colonialists as always. It doesn’t matter if it was 500 or 10 years ago, there they are today, interiorized in the National Guard, ministries, governors, transnationals, hired guns, paramilitaries, or cattle ranchers, in full force today.

There is no messianism in Sabino Romero’s cause, because he simply one more man, perhaps the man that Hugo Chávez himself mourned not being able to be as he looked over the Arauca River in his last tour of the llano.[4] But a man whose significance was equal to that of the comandante, despite obviously being infinitely smaller than the latter’s massive echo. Beginning with the whole media siege surrounding him from all points, public and private, that prevented millions from knowing him today. But this isn’t important, and it needed to be this way, since no one as more real and “anti-mediatic” than Sabino. Sabino wasn’t going to inundate anyone with his passion and his thought, what Marxism calls hegemonic construction, the magic of Hugo Chávez. No, Sabino was an indomitable fighter, an unbridled savage that only blatant murder, supported by ranchers and members of the National Guard from the right and from the “left,” government and empire, could contain.

Do I want to be Sabino Romero, who in life was the leader and cacique of the Yukpa insurrection? He does not ask such things, does not unfold himself in the people, we are the survivors—for now (por ahora[5])—who must ask ourselves this question, since he left us with the freedom to want to or not. By “being Sabino,” we mean confronting power head-on and without any “tactical” discrimination—of who I should or should not confront at any given moment—expecting the blood that he stubbornly and clearly foresaw and denounced.

To be Sabino is not to be Chávez: it is a direct bullet from the people that vanquishes or is vanquished, giving one’s all like anyone else, betting it all from within the heart of combat itself. Do we want to be Sabino Romero? We won’t say yes and turn this into a slogan, because to do so would be pure hypocrisy. But perhaps if we are already a little bit of Chávez, we can also be a small piece of Sabino. Then we will be invincible, as their two forces will make this revolution irreversible, a thousand times more transparent, powerful, expansive.

It is strange, but knowing that in our “being them” we also need to be better and wiser than them, those compañeros that in their everyday experiences committed a thousand errors—of excessive command, of unnecessary voluntarism—that we cannot repeat today. In conclusion by brother Sabino, blood of mine, we can’t even know if we have the audacity to be a little piece of you. But just like our comandante Chávez, you taught the freedom of absolute love for what is yours, which was always your Yukpa, Venezuelan, Our-American people.[6] In this sense your teaching is infinite, your devotion to your truth through the immense truth that you were is a lesson that when it emerges will be absorbed by all lands. Forever grateful, I say goodbye without tears in compliance with Alí Primera’s order.[7]

Honor and Glory to our libertarian teachers…

Chávez and Sabino show the Way…

Hasta la victoria siempre

Roland Denis has been a writer and revolutionary militant for decades, a key participant in popular struggles in the urban barrios, and former vice minister under the Chávez government.

Translated and annotated by George Ciccariello-Maher

[1] Not to be confused with U.S.-style right-wing libertarianism.

[2] Sabino Romero was an indigenous leader of the Yukpa who was engaged in a long-running struggle for the recovery of indigenous lands in the Sierra of Perijá. Sabino was murdered two days before Chávez’s death.

[3] A syncretic cultural celebration comprising Spanish, indigenous, and Afro traditions.

[4] The Venezuelan plains, from which the Arauca marks the Colombian border.

[5] The famous words spoken by Chávez after the failed coup of February 4th 1992.

[6]Nuestramericano” – a combined term describing Latin America as “Our America,” which was also the name of Denis’ longtime political grouping: Proyecto Nuestramérica, Our America Project.