Standing in front of an over-blown photo of Hugo Chávez, whose swollen face clearly shows the wear and tear of chemotherapy, President Daniel Ortega bid a short public farewell to his deep-pocketed tovarishch who died Tuesday afternoon after a lengthy and valiant battle with cancer.
“He raised the sword of (South American liberator Simón) Bolívar in Venezuela, in Latin America, the Caribbean and the world to demand justice and peace, liberty and unity,” Ortega said during a political rally held in Managua’s Plaza de la Revolucion, which was filled with the usual ruck of identically dressed Sandinista Youth, military men, government apparatchiks and friendly members of the clergy.
Ortega remembered the love that Chávez showed for Nicaragua, and the “enormous love” that Nicaragua had for Chávez, who provided the Sandinista government with more than $2.6 billion in petro-dollar largess over the past six years under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA).
The Sandinista chieftain called Chávez the “liberator of Venezuela” and the leader of “the people’s struggle for liberty and unity in Latin America and the Caribbean.” His “transcendence” to heaven was one of “strength and a most intense illuminating light,” Ortega said.
Chávez’s death presents a challenge for others in ALBA to carry forth the standard of revolutionary excellence, Ortega said.
“We need to continue the battle to give continuity to the dreams of Bolívar, the dreams of Sandino, the dreams of Martí, the dreams of Fidel, the dreams of Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias,” Ortega said. “We have to convert our condolence and solidarity into greater strength to fight and not to betray Chávez.”
The president’s eulogy to Chávez, which lasted around 10 minutes, was short by Ortega standards. In fact, the entire Chávez sendoff—bookended with the ventose musings of Nicaragua’s inevitable first lady, who gets the first and last word at every event—was short by Sandinista standards, lasting a little more than 30 minutes from soup to nuts.
What remains to be seen is what will happen to ALBA—and the Sandinistas’ economic muscle— once the mourning—and subsequent shouting—is over in Venezuela. If acting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro can maintain some semblance of Chavista unity and prevent the wheels from falling off the wagon, ALBA and all its projects in Nicaragua, including the $6.2 billion Supreme Dream of Bolívar Oil Refinery under construction in León, could continue forward uninterrupted. But if the winds of political change start to blow through Caracas, or if Chávez’s cult-of-personality political project becomes confounded like the Tower of Babel, Nicaragua could be in for a bumpy ride.