Charmer Chavez

He demonstrated that he was not only charming, but also disarming.

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would definitely have brought a tinge of sadness among those Bangaloreans, who had a chance to meet him during his visit here in March 2005. He charmed and disarmed not only the high and mighty, but also the hoi polloi.

Arguably, he proved to be the most friendly dignitary to visit the City in recent times. He displayed great bonhomie and camaraderie. He shook hands not only with VIPs, often putting his hand over their shoulders as a sign of friendship, he was equally friendly and shook hands with lesser mortals.

He was lucid in his speech and spoke in English except when addressing formally when he switched over to Spanish.

When a journalist asked him, if Venezuela was free to sell its oil or whether is was under the dictates of US, he waxed eloquent, “Regardless of the war in Iraq; regardless of the phase of the moon; regardless of the mood of the satan; regardless of the sex of the angels, Venezuela is absolutely free to sell its oil to whichever country it wants to. Let us say the Martians come to us for oil - we will send oil to Mars. Of course, we will have technological problems to send oil to Mars. India needs oil, so does China. We want our oil to be distributed equally for the development of the world.”

He regaled an audience of businessmen with his Bush bashing: “The US is looking at Venezuela as a threat. It will not be surprising if it comes out with a statement that Venezuela has weapons of mass destruction. Yes, we have weapons of mass destruction and that is poverty and hunger. Hunger is the most dangerous weapon in the world today. Every minute 20 children die due to hunger in the world and this should be tackled on a war-footing.”

Hugo Chavez himself rose from poverty to Venezuela’s highest office. He had a soft corner for the poor. He recalled his visit to a slum in Kolkata and pointed out the similarities between India and Venezuela.

During his Bangalore visit he demonstrated that he was not only charming, but also disarming. On his arrival at the old Bangalore airport, he noticed one of the scribes annoyed with the arrangements made by the officials at the airport. Chavez must have observed this, because the next day, when he saw the same scribe at a meeting at a star hotel, Chavez remarked, “Oh, my friend is here. We met at the airport.” We will meet again, another time, another place. May your soul rest in peace.

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