Inés Quintero: “The death of Hugo Chávez did not take anyone by surprise, he organized everything himself” | International

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The illness and death of Hugo Chávez, which finally occurred on March 5, 2012, materialized an unusually dramatic political moment, unprecedented in national history, that neither Chavistas nor anti-Chavistas wanted to believe until the last minute. Chávez, 58, was at the peak of his political momentum, having just been re-elected for the third time with a victory over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. With Chávez's death, the collapse of his development model was consolidated, consolidating an economic bankruptcy of historic proportions.

For the historian and writer Inés Quintero, the fundamental thing is that the Bolivarian regime had time to organize a transition to retain power without trauma, elevating its memory to the heights of the Venezuelan state. A military commitment was strengthened to give way to the era of Nicolás Maduro, under whose presidency Chavismo seized all institutional power.

Ask. An important part of the Chavista militancy refused then to accept the terminal gravity of Chávez, many people encouraged hope before that last speech on December 8, 2012.

Answer. And there were also many people, especially anti-Chavistas, who did not believe it, determined to say that it was a setup. What is relevant here is that the regime had time to organize a transition after the death of the caudillo. The death of Hugo Chávez did not take anyone by surprise, he himself organized the situation after his death. By leaving Nicolás Maduro anointed, he prepared his farewell. He set up the Cuartel de la Montaña (where Chávez entrenched himself when he tried to take Caracas, leading the coup on February 4, 1992), and a mausoleum was built for him, which was ready on time. It was thought of embalming him. It is not a small thing, Chávez had just won his third re-election.

Q. Many people believed that the death of Hugo Chávez could bring about the decline of Chavismo as a movement.

R. They are interpretations that were not uniform, touched rather by desires. It was quite unlikely, if we look at it correctly, that Chávez's death was going to trigger the collapse of Chavismo.

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Q. At one time there was much talk about Chavismo without Chávez.

R. Yes, but with the figure of Chávez being there, not outside the scene. Nobody could imagine that the end of Chávez would be that. When Chávez dies, a very powerful movement is generated to keep the memory of him alive, with slogans such as Chávez lives, the Homeland continues.

Q. The death of Hugo Chávez embedded his mandate in the military barracks and the structures of the Venezuelan state.

R. Totally, and none of it is accidental. A huge institutional effort was made to make it possible.

Q. How do you appreciate this effort to keep Chávez alive, ten years after his death?

R. Ten years later, inevitably, there is no longer any political interest in making the figure of Chávez be seen as someone unchangeable, present, regardless of the existence of Chavismo as a movement.

Q. Do you feel that Venezuela left behind the memory of Hugo Chávez?

R. I dare not say that the whole country. An important part, yes. But that does not mean that it has disappeared from all spaces.

Q. Chávez's death gave way to Nicolás Maduro, who has consolidated his autocracy with the support of the Armed Forces, but in whose hands the popular Chavista roots have eroded.

R. Hegemony can no longer be sustained on a charismatic leadership. It subsists on other structures, this state that expresses that patronage and populist identity, which are the construction of Hugo Chávez, and which have now been exacerbated. Now there is a social picture that is very different from the times of Chávez, with large gaps between rich and poor, and a much higher social deterioration than back then.

Q. What is the background of Venezuelan leaders who disappeared in the exercise of power?

R. The most visible is Juan Vicente Gómez, a dictator from the early 20th century who lasted 27 years in power and died in his bed. His death brought with it a progressive liberalization of public liberties, but his symbolic presence gradually faded. The society of that time took to the streets to demand transformations. In the case of Chávez it has been the opposite, an effort was made to deepen and keep his presence alive.

Q. Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, president of the government Military Junta, was assassinated in 1950, as was the caudillo Joaquín Crespo in 1895.

R. Yes, but what Delgado Chalbaud had as President of the Governing Board was two years, and it was a true assassination. Crespo was the strong man of his time and he was President of the Republic, but when he dies the one who governs is Ignacio Andrade, who was appointed by him. He goes out to face an uprising against his government and dies on the battlefield. Chávez's death, beyond the illusion that some might have about his cure, was awaited by the high government.

Q. Chavismo is still alive and in power. One would have to wonder if it is the popular hope that it once was.

R. When Chávez died, very long lines formed in the Cuartel de la Montaña of activists and onlookers, who often came from abroad. Now you go and there is no one, it is an empty sanctuary. It is a fervor that has not disappeared, but it no longer has the political force of before

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