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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezeula’s Hugo Chavez loses battle with cancer

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Phuket Gazette World News: Venezeula’s Hugo Chavez loses battle with cancer | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obituary: Hugo Chavez – socialist showman who transformed Venezuela
Reuters/ Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: At two defining moments of his rule, Venezuela’s theatrical leader Hugo Chavez took a small silver crucifix from his pocket and held it above his head.

Both marked a quasi-religious “return” for the socialist ex-soldier whom supporters loved with messianic fervour – first from a 2002 coup that saw him jailed on a tiny Caribbean island, and then from cancer surgery in Cuba in June 2011.

As he held aloft the crucifix from a balcony of his Miraflores Palace after returning from surgery, the maverick president of South America’s biggest oil exporter said he was putting his fate in the hands of God and the Virgin Mary.

“Today, the revolution is more alive than ever. I feel it, I live it, I touch it … If Christ is with us, who can be against us? If the people are with us, who can be against us?” he said, working his supporters into a frenzy.

“But no one should think my presence here means the battle is won. No,” he cautioned, turning the screams of joy at his homecoming to tears at the fragile state of his health.

Chavez died in hospital yesterday, finally succumbing to the cancer after four operations in Cuba. His death ended 14 years of charismatic, volatile rule that turned him into a major world figure.

Ever the showman, Chavez would jump from theology to jokes, and from Marxist rhetoric to baseball metaphors in building an almost cult-like devotion among followers.

Throughout his presidency, he projected himself in religious, nationalistic and radical terms as Venezuela’s saviour, and it largely worked. While his foes reviled him and portrayed him as a boorish dictator, Chavez was hailed by supporters as a champion of the poor and he won four presidential elections.

He took over from his mentor Fidel as the leader of South America’s left-wing bloc and its loudest critic of the United States, winning friends and enemies alike with a cutting and dramatic frankness that no one could match.

When the cancer first struck, Chavez could have stepped aside to fight it.

Instead, he stretched his physical limits by staying at the front of his government while running a successful but hobbled campaign to win a new six-year term at an October 7 election.

Rural roots
Born the second of six sons of teachers in the cattle-ranching plains of Barinas state and raised by his grandmother Rosa Ines in a mud-floor shack, the young Chavez first aspired to be a painter or pitcher in the U.S. Major Leagues.

Attracted by the chance to play baseball, he joined the army at 16 and was eventually promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

Though mixing with left-wing rebels and plotting within the military from long before, Chavez burst onto the national stage when he led a 1992 coup attempt against then leader Carlos Andres Perez.

The coup failed and Chavez surrendered, but he cut a dashing figure dressed in green fatigues and a red beret for a famous speech live on TV before being carted off to jail.

His comment that the coup had failed “por ahora” (“for now”) electrified many Venezuelans, especially the poor, who admired Chavez for standing up to a government they felt was increasingly corrupt and cold to their needs.

The hint of more to come, plus the unashamed acceptance of responsibility by Chavez, made him a hero in some sectors.

“I thank you for your loyalty, your valour, your exuberance, and I, before the country and before you all, assume responsibility for this Bolivarian militant movement,” he said, instructing his fellow rebels to lay down their arms.

Pardoned in 1994 by Venezuela’s next president, Rafael Caldera, Chavez left jail and began a grassroots political campaign, eventually defeating a former Miss Universe to win a presidential election four years later.

By doing so, the former paratrooper ended the grip of Venezuela’s traditional parties and launched his self-proclaimed “Bolivarian Revolution” – named for Venezuela’s 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Chavez changed the nation’s name to the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” and appeared in front of huge paintings of Bolivar, sending a subliminal message to Venezuelans that he was the modern reincarnation of their historical idol.

Slum hero
In the early days of his rule, Chavez enjoyed runaway popularity levels of 80 percent or more, especially in the sprawling slums of the capital Caracas.

His first big test surfaced three years in when he faced huge street protests and a build-up of withering criticism from political foes, business and labour leaders, Catholic bishops and even dissident soldiers.

But when military officers briefly pushed him out in their own coup in 2002, Chavez proved himself to be a survivor and bounced back to power after two days incommunicado and under arrest, some of it at an island military base.

In what he frequently refers to as his darkest moment – matched only by the cancer diagnosis he said Fidel, his friend and ally, broke to him in 2011 at a private Havana hospital – Chavez thought he was going to be assassinated.

In an incredible 72 hours for Venezuela, a counter-coup by loyalist troops and demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of outraged “Chavista” supporters forced Pedro Carmona, who had briefly seized power, to resign and restored Chavez to the presidency.

That led to his first “crucifix moment”.

The stocky, wiry-haired Chavez – whose favourite attire remained the paratrooper’s red beret and dark green uniform or a bright red shirt – became Latin America’s most colourful and controversial leader.

He soon became a household name from Middle America to the Middle East.

Allies say Chavez was misunderstood abroad, the victim of an unstinting U.S.-led propaganda campaign.

“They’ve called me a Mussolini or Fidel or said I sleep with a book by Hitler for a pillow,” Chavez once said. “But the people know the truth. They know who I really am.”

He combined traditional left-wing tenets of equality and wealth distribution with a fervent nationalism inspired by Bolivar.

His critics regularly accused him and his government of being corrupt and inept, and of steering the country towards a Cuban-style authoritarian regime. Certainly, a clutch of opponents ended up in exile or jail, normally on graft charges they said were trumped up.

Business detractors said his socialist reforms, including the expropriation of rural estates and the nationalization of much of the economy, including multi-billion dollar oil projects, destroyed jobs and scared off investors.

A decade of high oil prices allowed Chavez to spend huge amounts on social programs that became the linchpin of his support among poor voters.

They included his famous slum “missions” that provided free healthcare and education, plus subsidized food, clothes and even electronics, and are likely to be his biggest legacy.

All of his political opponents have vowed to continue them, in some form or other.

Chavez defended his “revolution” as a long-overdue crusade to close the yawning gap between rich and poor in Venezuela, which combines huge oil and mineral wealth with grinding poverty, widespread unemployment and rampant crime.

His praise for communist Cuba and Fidel Castro, combined with his courting of other anti-U.S. states like Iran, irritated Washington, which has long been the mai

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Myanmar

38 people die “bloodiest day” since Myanmar coup – United Nations

Caitlin Ashworth

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38 people die “bloodiest day” since Myanmar coup – United Nations | The Thaiger
Anti-coup protest in Myanmar on February 14 / Photo by Htin Linn Aye via Wikimedia Commons

38 people died during Myanmar’s anti-coup protests yesterday in what the United Nations is calling the “bloodiest day” in the country since the February 1 military takeover. UN special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said the death toll is “shocking” and that the situation in the Southeast Asian country could lead to a “real war.”

Since last month’s coup, more than 50 people have died while many others have been wounded in protests against military rule. Witnesses say police and soldiers have opened fire with little warning. In a virtual briefing, the UN envoy said experts believe the Burmese police are using 9mm sub-machine guns to fire shots at civilians.

“I saw today very disturbing video clips. One was police beating a volunteer medical crew. They were not armed… Another video clip showed a protester was taken away from police and they shot him from very near, maybe one metre. He didn’t resist his arrest and it seems he died on the street.”

Burmese troops seized power of the civilian government last month, citing what they say was a fraudulent election, although the election commission said the vote was fair. A number of civilian politicians were arrested including democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had won the November election for state counsellor in a landslide.

Christine says more than 1,200 people are now under detention and many do not know where their loved ones are.

SOURCE: UN News | Aljazeera

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World

Muay Thai added to European Games 2023

Caitlin Ashworth

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Muay Thai added to European Games 2023 | The Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia

Thailand’s national sport Muay Thai has been added to the European Games 2023, set to be held in Poland. While Asia has been leading the sport for decades, many recent Muay Thai champions are from Europe, according to Sakchye Tapsuwan, president of the International Federation of Muaythai Associations, the governing body for the sport.

“Europe has grown in strength, evidenced at the last two World Championships, where the overall winners were teams from Europe.”

Held by the European Olympic Commission, the European Games is considered a staging post to the Olympics. Thousands of elite athletes from 50 participating nations have the opportunity to compete in one of the 15 sports. Now Muay Thai, an ancient martial art dating back 1,000 years with ties to centuries-old traditions, is included on the list.

The format of the European Games is in line with the Olympic Movement standards for gender equality. The categories are equal for men and women with 7 male and female divisions and 2 coed teams. Creating equal opportunities for men and women fighters is a “vision” both the federation and the European Olympic Committee share, according to director of the federation, Charissa Tynan.

“For IFMA, gender equality is not about ticking the box, it is about ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities to shine together on one stage as one family.”

SOURCES: IFMA | EOC

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Japan asks China to stop anal Covid-19 tests after travellers report “psychological distress”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Japan asks China to stop anal Covid-19 tests after travellers report “psychological distress” | The Thaiger

After complaints that China’s anal swab Covid-19 test caused “psychological distress,” Japan has asked China to stop using the new, much more invasive method of testing on Japanese citizens entering the country.

For the anal test, reportedly done on some travellers entering China from overseas, a 3 to 5 centimetre long cotton swab is inserted into the anus and gently rotated to collect the sample. While it’s unclear exactly how many people have gone through the procedure, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato says some Japanese citizens have reported mental discomfort after the test.

“Some Japanese reported to our embassy in China that they received anal swab tests, which caused great psychological pain.”

The Japanese government made a request through the embassy in Beijing to stop using the anal swab test on Japanese citizens. Katsunobu says China has not yet responded to the request.

China started using the anal swab test in January. The anal tests are controversial with many experts backing the oral test as the most efficient way to detect a coronavirus infection.

SOURCE: BBC

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