Bolivian President Evo Morales returned to a key theme when he learned this week of the death of his friend and comrade Hugo Chavez in Caracas.
"The best tribute to Chavez is unity. Unity to fight, to work for the equality of all peoples of the world," Morales declared in an address to the Bolivian people from the Quemado presidential palace in La Paz.
Bolivia's first indigenous president was in a way reprising his comments to a huge rally in Caracas on what should have been President Chavez's inauguration day on January 10.
Acknowledging that the health situation afflicting Chavez at the time was a concern for the Venezuelan people and for everyone engaged in the struggle for liberation, Morales said: "The best tribute and solidarity with Chavez is unity. Let's keep unity between our countries."
In taking this stance, the Bolivian leader was reiterating the kernel of the Bolivarian ideology articulated and proclaimed by his Venezuelan brother in arms.
As Bolivar asserted regional unity in the wars of independence against Spanish colonialism, so modern-day Bolivarianism recognises that even stronger cohesion is necessary to defend Latin American independence against political and economic domination by what Chavez designated "the empire."
WikiLeaks has already published 40,000 secret emails documenting US intentions of complicating matters for Venezuela with a view to assisting the country's rag-bag opposition to short-circuit the revolutionary process.
And the decision by acting president Nicolas Maduro to declare two US military attaches persona non grata on account of their inappropriate contacts with Venezuelan army officers indicates that Washington has not turned its back on imperialism's traditional way of dealing with inconvenient regimes.
Barack Obama dispensed with diplomatic norms in his response to the personal and political tragedy that Chavez's untimely death represented to his family and to the Venezuelan people who voted decisively for him as their president last October.
The US president uttered no word of regret, restricting himself, "at this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing," to a reaffirmation of "US support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.
"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights."
In a reminder of the kind of subservience to Washington once shown by Latin American states Canadian Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed the same hope that Venezuelans could build "a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights."
Venezuelan junior Foreign Minister Claudia Salerno slammed Harper for his "insensitive and impertinent sentiments."
He was reminded that Venezuela "has freely and democratically chosen its socialist destiny and is obliged to remind the representative of the Canadian government that it has been thanks to this Bolivarian revolution that our future as an independent and sovereign country appears more radiant and promising than ever, by virtue of the legacy of our historic leader Commander President Hugo Chavez Frias."
What Washington and Ottawa's fine-sounding words on freedom and democracy translate into can be deduced from US State Department official Victoria Nuland's comments on February 19 after the president arrived home from his medical treatment in Havana.
Nuland took it upon herself to lecture Venezuela on its duty to respect constitutional requirements in the event of Chavez being deemed incapacitated, insisting that, "if elections are in fact convened, they should be free and fair, with open access to the media."
Her formulaic pronouncement ignores the reality that Venezuela's opposition has enjoyed quasi-monopoly support from the local newspaper and electronic media, even to the extent of cheerleading and justifying the 2002 coup that briefly removed the president from office.
The situation has been countered to some extent by development of state outlets, but "open access to the media" for all candidates would be the last thing that the newspaper, radio and TV oligopoly would contemplate.
While the empire and its vassals maintain their hostility to the Bolivarian revolution, Washington's local surrogates have been taken unawares by the death for which they had wished for so long.
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition has been fighting like rats in a sack since October's defeat, with some parties complaining that Henrique Capriles and his Justice First party had sidelined them from decision making.
Capriles is the likely standard bearer for the oligarchy against United Socialist Party (PSUV) candidate Maduro in the forthcoming election.
He has already voiced the view that the Bolivarian revolution cannot survive Chavez's death and has called Maduro a "liar" and an "incompetent," yet he suggested, without going into details, what could be understood as a coalition or "great reunification," even saying of the late president: "We were adversaries but never enemies."
Neither Maduro nor the revolutionary movement is likely to fall for this ploy, which is both a bid to rewrite history and to continue the right's search for imaginary divisions within the Chavista ranks.
When the vice-president addressed the nation to announce that Chavez had died, he said: "Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment - love."
But he will remain cognisant that the oppositionists now expressing condolences over the revolutionary leader's demise are those who called for his death, plotted assassination attempts, led a coup against him and have derided the government programme of improving living standards for the workers and the poor.
Compromise with the opulent opposition would spell out betrayal of the millions of new voters who finally discovered reasons to take part in the electoral process, the poor who overwhelmed the transport system today to get to Caracas for the president's funeral.
Venezuela's streets and squares are still crammed with red-shirted Chavistas, talking, singing and chanting revolutionary slogans, such as "Con Chavez y Maduro, el pueblo esta seguro" (With Chavez and Maduro, the people are secure) and "Todos Somos Chavez" (We are all Chavez).
Millions have already filed in tribute past Chavez's body where it lies in state at the military academy and where his open coffin will remain for another week, in line with the wishes of the president's family that his body should be seen and bade farewell by every citizen wishing to do so.
His body will be embalmed and kept on public display, as with such other revolutionary leaders as Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong.
However, the essential power of Chavez will not reside in his bodily remains but in his revolutionary example, his Bolivarian principles and the policies set in train to meet the needs of Venezuela's dispossessed and exploited people.
While some publicity is afforded to the social "missions" established in Venezuela by the revolutionary government, concerning health, education, housing, pensions and various benefits, less attention has been paid to the new labour law that comes into effect on May 7.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady noted in her warm appreciation of Chavez's life this week that the law marks "a huge step forward in workers' rights in the country - measures that we are sure Vice President Nicolas Maduro, himself a trade unionist with a long background in the struggle for rights and equality, and the rest of the government will continue to take forward."
The law links workplace rights with production self-management councils, which are described by the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) as "fundamental organisations of popular power, conceived from proactive participation of the workers in the real and effective execution of control over the productive and administrative processes."
The PCV, which was deeply involved in drafting the law, sees the production self-management councils as on a par with the communal councils set up to devolve state power to communities as part of the transformation of the state.
The PCV, allied parties and numerous public institutions, including the oil workers and armed forces, have already declared their backing for Maduro in the election, which will probably be declared on Monday by parliamentary head Diosdado Cabello to take place within two months.
Success for Maduro will mean posthumous victory for Chavez in his life's work to transform his country and his continent and raise the previously despised indigenous people and working class to masters of their own destiny.
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