Venezuelans mourn their great loss. Visceral grief pervades the country. Chavez gave so much to so many. He cared. He showed it. He made a difference. He accomplished so much in 14 years.
The torch passes. On Friday, Nicolas Maduro was sworn in. He's acting president. New elections will follow in about 30 days. Maduro vowed to continue what Chavez began.
"I swear," he said, "in the absolute loyalty to the Commandante Hugo Chavez that we will obey and defend this Bolivarian Constitution with the hard hand of a people willing to be free. I swear."
"There you are, undefeated, pure, transparent, unique, true, alive forever." His voice cracked saying so.
"Mission accomplished comandante," he added! "The struggle goes on." It's vital. Chavez said "Time is short. If we do not change the world now, there may not be a 22nd century." Millions agree.
Chavez honored the "heroic memory of our peoples, of Guaicaipuro, our liberators, the largest of which (were) Simon Bolívar, Ezequiel Zamora and his ragged army."
Maduro promised to comply with, enforce, and preserve Venezuela's Constitution. He'll fight "tirelessly though the work of our fellow comrade president and supreme leader of the Bolivarian Revolution to solidify more each day."
He received head of state emblems. He got the presidential sash. He accepted it with heavy heart, saying:
"Pardon our sorrow and tears, but this band belongs to Hugo Chavez. The presidency corresponds to" him. He wept saying so.
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) said Maduro "ceases to exercise his previous (executive vice presidential) position." He's now acting "president in charge of the Republic."
Saying so conforms to constitutional law. Article 233 states:
"The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position...and by recall by popular vote."
If the President is permanently unavailable to serve during his first four years, a new election will be held "by universal suffrage and direct ballot" within 30 days.
"Between pending election and inauguration, the Executive Vice President shall assume the Presidency."
"If permanent unavailability occurs during his last two years, the Executive Vice President shall complete the term of office."
Maduro appointed Science and Technology Minister, Jorge Arreaza, vice president. Hell remain so until new elections are held.
He's Chavez's son-in-law. Maduro called him "executive vice constitutional comrade." He asked National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena to prepare immediately for new elections.
"Officially I asked her to comply with all legal and constitutional ends of the country and the mandate of Article 233, to immediately convene elections for the people of Venezuela so that they will know who will be the president of the republic, in a democratic way," he said.
He asked her to choose an appropriate date. "We are ready to go to elections without fear. We feel confident of Venezuelan democracy. Whoever deserves to win will win, decided by the people."
Maduro spoke at Chavez's state funeral. He did so tearfully. His charismatic mentor's gone.
Chavez called him his protege. He hoped he'd succeed him. He urged he be named his political heir. Expect it. Venezuelans strongly support him. They do so for good reason. They abhor returning to oligarch rule.
Maduro vowed "to protect the people, and to defend socialism and take forward and enforce its legacy."
"I'm not here for personal ambition," he said. "I'm here to enforce the order of Hugo Chavez."
He'll carry the torch. He's committed. His political career reflects it. He supports institutionalized Bolivarianism. He wants no other way. Venezuelans are secure in his hands. He won't let them down.
He replicated Chavez's rhetoric. He took aim at Washington. He said:
"We tell them: Sooner than later, the imperialist elites who govern the United States will have to learn to live with absolute respect with the insurrectional people of Latin and Caribbean America."
He said Venezuela's "armed forces of Chavez" support him. He pumped his fist in the air saying so.
Throughout his tenure, America's scoundrel media vilified Chavez. They did so unjustifiably. New York Times writers, contributors editors are some of the most vocal.
They abhor leftist presidents. After Chavez died, Times editors softened momentarily. It won't be long-lasting. They'll return to true form.
They support wealth and power. They're comfortable with neoliberal harshness. They deplore populist change.
They gave former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva op-ed space. He used it responsibly. On March 6, he headlined "Latin America After Chavez," saying:
History will judge Chavez fairly. He lifted millions of Venezuelans from poverty. He gave them vital social benefits. Most never had them before.
His significance can't be understated. His "boundless energy; his deep belief in the potential for the integration of the nations of Latin America; and his commitment to the social transformations needed to ameliorate the misery of his people."
His "social campaigns, especially in the areas of public health, housing and education, succeeded in improving the standard of living of tens of millions of Venezuelans."
He went where no previous Venezuelan leader dared. He "never wavered in his decisions." He did what he knew was right. He did it because it matters. Millions love him. They won't forget.
No one, "not even his fiercest opponent, can deny the level of camaraderie, of trust and even of love that Mr. Chavez felt for the poor of Venezuela and for the cause of Latin American integration."
"Of the many power brokers and political leaders I have met in my life, few have believed so much in the unity of our continent and its diverse peoples - indigenous Indians, descendants of Europeans and Africans, recent immigrants - as he did."
His legacy lives. It'll "be discussed for decades in universities, labor unions, political parties and anyplace where people are concerned with social justice, the alleviation of misery, and the fairer distribution of power among the peoples of the world."
Perhaps he'll inspire others the way Bolivar inspired him. It's hard imagining otherwise. He was legendary in his own time.
He's bigger than life now. He meant so much to so many. His spirit won't die. It's embedded in the hearts of millions.
He'll be sorely missed. "I will always cherish the friendship and partnership that, during the eight years in which we worked together as presidents..." He was special in many ways.
World leaders paid their respects. National television covered it. They had their say. Maduro led what followed. He spoke eloquently. He discussed Chavez's legacy.
"He made us rediscover the history of our homeland. He raised the flag of Simon Bolivar and embodied it," he said.
"He soul and spirit are so strong that his body could not handle it, and now his soul and spirit roam the universe, spreading and filling us with blessing and love."
Chavez asked Maduro and other key officials to draft final words and thoughts on his behalf in case he died. They couldn't do it.
"(I)t was impossible," said Maduro. He'd "already written his will. His whole life (was) his will, his actions, his work, his people, and all the humble ones in this world."
He cared. He really cared. Few leaders now and earlier match him. He was extraordinary and exceptional.
He asked Maduro and others to advance Bolivarian principles. They're too important to lose.
"Now it is on us if we do it or not," said Maduro. "We call on the people to do it."
Millions in Caracas streets viewed Chavez. Millions more will follow.
"The body of our commander-in-chief will be embalmed and placed in the Museum of the Revolution in a special way: in a glass case so that the people can have him there forever," said Maduro.
"We want everyone who wants to see him to be able to, with love and respect."
Viva Chavez! Chavismo lives! We're all Chavez! What better way to say rest in peace dear friend.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.