Venezuela Mourns Longtime Chavista Leader Aristóbulo Istúriz

“The professor,” as he was known, held several high-ranking posts in the last 20 years and was a key figure in the Bolivarian Revolution.

By Andreína Chávez Alava
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The Venezuelan government paid tribute to Aristóbulo Istúriz and awarded him posthumously with the Order of Libertadores and Libertadoras. (Twitter/@RosangelaOrozco)
The Venezuelan government paid tribute to Aristóbulo Istúriz and awarded him posthumously with the Order of Libertadores and Libertadoras. (Twitter/@RosangelaOrozco)

Guayaquil, Ecuador, April 29, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela's Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz passed away on Tuesday following complications from open-heart surgery. He was 74 years-old.

Istúriz, a teacher and politician, was a key figure in the Bolivarian Revolution having held a number of key posts in the last 20 years.

Born in the afro-descendant town of Curiepe in 1946, he started his political work in the 1980s as a popular leader and grassroots activist in the struggles against the US-backed neoliberal governments. Backed by the leftist La Causa R, Istúriz won the Libertador mayorship in Caracas in 1992. Five years later, he helped found the Homeland for All (PPT) party, one of the movements that supported Hugo Chávez’s 1998 presidential run.

Istúriz was the vice president of the 1999 National Constitutional Assembly that drafted the current progressive constitution, and three years later he assumed a leading role in the restoration of democracy after the 48-hour coup d’etat that briefly ousted President Hugo Chávez.

Most notoriously, Aristóbulo Istúriz earned the title “the professor” due to his life's work in the education sector. Between 2001 and 2007, he served as education minister under Hugo Chávez and was in charge of Mission Robinson, the literacy and primary education program launched in 2003 with Cuban cooperation. In its first two years, Mission Robinson taught almost 1.5 million Venezuelans basic literacy skills, with the country being declared an “Illiteracy Free Territory” by UNESCO in 2005.

Over the next 15 years, Istúriz would go on to lead a number of ministries in the Chávez and Nicolás Maduro governments, as well as holding high-ranking posts in the United Socialist Party (PSUV). After serving as governor of Anzoátegui State from 2012 to 2016, he went back to the executive as vice president and minister of communes in 2016 and 2017, before returning to the education ministry in 2019.

The following year he created the television and radio program “a school in every family” to help Venezuelan students continue with classes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Istúriz also faced harsh criticism due to the low salaries in the education sector under the country’s economic crisis.

"The death of Professor Aristóbulo Istúriz is a great blow to the people of Venezuela. The humblest in all the country's schools mourn today," President Nicolás Maduro said during the funeral on Wednesday, hailing Istúriz as “a guide for revolutionary people." The ceremony in the National Assembly Elliptical Hall was attended by ministers, military authorities and grassroots movements, who paid tribute to his life’s work.

Maduro awarded the longtime Chavista with the first-class Order of Libertadores and Libertadoras and a replica of Simón Bolívar’s sword, the highest distinctions given in Venezuela. Istúriz's wife and daughter received the condecorations.

Venezuela's afro-descendant community presented an homage to  Istúriz with drums and traditional dance during the ceremony. (Twitter/@nawseas).

The International Afro-descendent and African Cumbe expressed their sorrow for the loss that Istúriz's death represents for the Afro-Venezuelan movement. "Professor Aristóbulo your fight will transcend with the cimarrones of all times," they said in a tweet.

The Venezuelan leader’s role in the Bolivarian Process likewise drew tributes from around the world. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel lamented his death and praised Istúriz’s “solidarity and revolutionary attitude."

For his part, Bolivian President Luis Arce lamented "the loss of a great social fighter," while former president Evo Morales described Istúriz as Bolivia's "soul brother and comrade in struggle."

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP) secretary Sacha Llorenti stressed that Istúriz’s "revolutionary struggle planted many seeds and will not stop bearing fruit." The Russian embassy in Venezuela likewise paid homage to Istúriz for his life service to his country.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.

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