Mérida, September 13th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The governor of Guárico state, Willian Lara, died in an automobile accident on Friday. As Venezuelans mourned his tragic and untimely death, it was announced that Guillermo García Ponce, who directed the pro-Chavez newspaper Diario Vea, and Luis Ceballos, Venezuelan representative in the Latin American Parliament, both passed away on Saturday.
Lara, who was 53 years old, was being driven on a highway in northwestern Guárico state when the driver lost control of the Toyota 4Runner, and the car was submerged in a nearby river. It is speculated that the car collided with rocks that had that had fallen on the road following recent heavy rains. The governor was swept away by the river and declared missing in the late afternoon on Friday. At five o’clock in the morning on Saturday, Guarico state officials announced that Lara’s body had been found.
Lara was a journalist by profession and a long-time socialist. He was a founding member of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), the political party which helped elect Hugo Chavez to the presidency in 1998.
During Chavez’s presidency, Lara was a trusted adviser and loyal ally to Chavez. He served as a representative in the Constituent Assembly which re-wrote the national constitution in 1999, and was president of the National Assembly. Lara also played a key role in the creation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and served as minister for communication before being elected governor of Guárico state on the PSUV ticket in 2008.
On Saturday, President Chavez posthumously bestowed upon Lara the honor of Order of the Liberator in First Class. Chavez recounted Lara’s “unwavering loyalty” during the military coup that briefly ousted Chavez in 2002. The president referred to the governor as a “model fellow countryman,” and called on all Venezuelans to emulate Lara’s ethic of sacrifice for the public good.
In a written statement on Sunday, Chavez said, “The Venezuelan people found one of their most exemplary sons in Willian Lara. Willian embodied a militant passion, a vocation and dedication to the cause of humble people.” Lara was “a great fighter for the Venezuelan path towards socialism, and one of the best officials of the Bolivarian Revolution and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela,” Chavez wrote.
Vice President Elias Jaua, who is the former minister for agriculture and land, highlighted Lara’s work as governor, which included road and railway construction, irrigation development, and promotion of agriculture in his largely rural state. He emphasized Lara’s commitment to the national land reform program, which aims to re-distribute idle agricultural lands and has garnered vehement opposition from landed elites.
“Willian did not die, because those who fall while fighting and working for the people do not die,” Jaua said in a radio and television announcement, his voice cracking with emotion.
Venezuela’s ambassador to Spain, Isaías Rodríguez, also emphasized Lara’s “relentless and fearless commitment and responsibility to the struggle,” adding, “We feel as though now we should devote ourselves two, three, four times more to the [revolutionary] process, to do the tasks that he will no longer be able to carry out.”
Several international groups also sent their condolences for Lara’s death, including the Italian communists, the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in Venezuela, and the Bolivarian Circle in New York.
In the midst of national mourning for the governor on Saturday, the government also announced the death of Guillermo García Ponce, the director of the hard-line pro-Chavez newspaper, Diario Vea, at the age of 84.
García was a former member of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and founder of the Communist Youth in 1947, according to a statement by current PCV General Secretary Oscar Figuera. He was also a member of the Patriotic Alliance that helped overthrow the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1957, and a national legislator in the early years of the Fourth Republic.
In addition to the deaths of Lara and García, the government announced the death of Luis Ceballos, Venezuela’s delegate to the Latin American Parlament, on Saturday. The statement from the Ministry for Communication and Information did not indicate the cause of Ceballos’s death. Ceballos was a member of the PSUV and a member of the Environment and Tourism Commission in the Latin American Parlament.