In Memoriam, Luis Herrera Campíns, 5.4.1925 - 11.9.2007. President of Venezuela from 12.3.1979 - 2.2.1984.
"Ha muerto Luis Herrera Campíns. Un hombre bueno, quieto, culto y con un gran sentido del humor. Cuando era Presidente de la República, Sergio Sucre, que estaba encargado del Ministerio de la Secretaría, le avisó que determinado gobernador lo llamaba por teléfono y que era urgente: “Será urgente para él”, fue la respuesta del Presidente. Históricamente mereció mejor suerte. Ha debido ser un gran Presidente, pero su partido no lo ayudó. Había empezado el proceso de decadencia, tanto de Acción Democrática como de Copei, y en Copei interesaba más la sucesión que la obra de gobierno. Muchos de sus ministros, muchos de los que fueron gobernadores y alcaldes durante su gestión, no hicieron nada por ayudarlo, y tampoco ayudaron al país. En materia de cultura, su cercanía a muchos creadores debería haber garantizado una obra importante, pero, sobre todo en provincia, esa obra se vio frenada y contrarrestada por funcionarios de muy dudosos criterios. Pero lo que nadie puede negar es que fue un hombre valioso y bien intencionado. En mi caso, cuando necesité apoyo porque un grupito había decidido hacerme daño (1991), el Presidente Herrera Campíns hizo lo humanamente posible por ayudarme que es algo que siempre le agradeceré. En todo caso, la Historia no puede ser injusta con él, sobre todo si lo compara con lo que ha pasado después. Él no le falló al país, el país le falló a él."
- Luis Herrera Campíns, by Eduardo Casanova (Literanova).
It is a shame to see that in less than a month, 3 great Venezuelans have died. Cardinal Castillo, Aldemaro Romero (musician), and Luis Herrera Campíns.
I was a kid during the government of Luis Herrera, so I don't remember much of it, but I remember him a lot. Stuff that people used to say about him like that he always had "Torontos" (a delicious chocolate bonbon) in his pockets, and his jokes. He also was famous for his llanero smart quotes (llaneros are the Venezuelan cowboys... Hugo Chavez is also a llanero). Among his many says, he will be remember for this one: "A ponerse las alpargatas que lo que viene es Joropo, y aragueño (tuyero) que es el mas movido"... (Translation: it's time to put the dancing shoes -alpargatas- because the dance is coming -Joropo). This quote people use when shaky times arrive, it's time to put on the shoes and do the dance as better as you can.
I also remember that during his government, we had the "Black Friday", a bolivar devaluation that marked the beginning of a new "era" for the country, an economic crisis that is still going on, despite today's astronomical oil prices. After that "Black Friday", Venezuela impoverish so much. We passed from been the riches of the world, to be, well, what we are right now.
Among his works, his government gave us the "Metro" and the "Teresa Carreño" theater. Funny, the Chavistas have taken over that theater for them. Moreover, the Chavista Minister Farruco Sexto, stated a couple days ago, that anyone who is not compromised with the "process", meaning if you are not a Chavista, if you are a free thinker,you should not perform in there. The irony! A theater built in democracy for a group of communist scavenger hunters steal it as their "own".
I don't think Luis Herrera's government was all that great,I really can't give you my opinion about it because I really don't know, but the man and his family were very nice, decent people, that I know. Something very important to note, specially on these days of hummers and corruption, is that Luis Herrera lived always in the same house, the same house he got before his presidency. How many Chavistas can say the same? None.
It's also good to have a little walk on memory lane and remember the good relationships that our country have with the United States.
Toasts of the President and President Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela at the State Dinner
November 17th, 198
President Herrera once said, "History shows that only those human actions which are based on ethical principles have a truly lasting significance." Tonight, we honor a man and a country that has chosen a path of principle, one that will have lasting significance.
Democracy and respect for human rights is not the easiest course, but it is the most moral. President Herrera, a man of deep religious and moral convictions, long ago decided to stand for what is right. As a boy, he witnessed a chain gang composed of political prisoners. This sight frightened lesser men; it instead strengthened Herrera Campins' resolve to fight dictatorship. Later this love of freedom led to his own arrest and exile, yet he stood firm with the other brave individuals and, eventually, they and the principles of human freedom triumphed.
Such dedication is deeply admired here, but politics is not the only way to catch a glimpse of one's soul. Now, to many Americans, Venezuela has come to mean excellence in sports. David Concepcion and Tony Armas and many other fine baseball players have come to us from Venezuela. And interestingly, President Herrera and I both were sports journalists at one time.
In welcoming President Herrera to Washington, I recalled the portion of his magnificent statement to the United Nations. What I didn't mention was that after delivering it, he went to Yankee Stadium to see a ballgame. [Laughter]
Now, Mr. President, you probably don't know that your dinner partner tonight, my wife, Nancy—her birthday is July 6th, but her mother has told me it would have been July 4th, except she didn't want to miss the doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. [Laughter]
Mr. President, you're a man, and Venezuelans are a people, whose love of life and of freedom are something with which the people of the United States can identify. You and your country stand for those values and those principles that reflect the best of mankind. You honor us by this visit, and Venezuela honors us by its friendship.
Now, I ask all of you to join with me in a toast to President Herrera Campins, his lovely wife, and to the people of Venezuela. May our bonds be always so strong.
President Herrera. Your Excellency, Mr. President of the United States, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished guests:
Mr. President, thank you for such a pleasant dinner, for your kind words, and the friendship and cordiality extended to us during this visit to the United States.
The ideals of liberty, human respect, and democratic government inspire our two countries. These principles are the fundamental basis of the good relations between Venezuela and the United States: mutual respect, the desire to understand each other's realities, and the conviction that dialog and negotiation enable us to overcome differences when inspired by a sincere willingness to achieve understanding.
We shall soon commemorate 250 years of George Washington's birth and, in 1983, the bicentennial of the birth of our liberator, Simon Bolivar. In the example of these two great men, we can and must seek and find the common source of our ideals of liberty and human dignity, those profound roots of friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
Allow me, Mr. President, to recall that in May of 1781, Francisco de Miranda, forerunner of Latin American independence, fought in Pensacola the battle that paved the way for Cornwallis' surrender in Yorktown. Between the 18th and the 19th centuries, the first Venezuelan cosmovisionary, Miranda, acted thus on all the great stages where freedom of man was at stake: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Latin American Revolution-three related political processes of undeniable projection to the rest of the world.
It was thus on North American soil that Miranda began his journey to freedom. After Pensacola he would later say, "My first thought as a man was a feeling of national fervor. When participating in the emancipation of the United States, the first surge of my spirit was a yearning for the liberation of the places which saw me, coming to the world, for I did not dare to call America a homeland. This feeling of love for liberty acted so much upon me that ever since all my thoughts referred to it, and it became the motive for all my actions and the reason for all my journeys."
We are faithful to the Bolivarian teachings on the achievement of continental integration in a world of peace. Latin America is a region that feels a natural calling to multilateral relations. The Organization of American States, CARICOME, the subregional Andean Pact, the Amazonian Pact, the Latin American Organization for Energy, the Latin American Economic System, the Central American Common Market, the Latin American Integration Association are but part of those multilateral organizations where Latin American plurality is of the continental scope.
Multilaterally is both our inclination and our strength, notwithstanding the importance of bilateral ties which in no way deny and basically reinforce multilateral relations. More and more do we strive for oneness in a united comprehension of our diversities, so we will not go separate and divided, drifted by discord, disparity, and anarchy.
We wish to achieve a comprehensive, harmonious development. There are still many needs to be provided for, much want to be met, and social injustice to be redressed. The evils of underdevelopment resist all efforts to dislodge them and strike root by singular lack of understanding. The path that is to guide us at a lower social cost towards the future is that of cooperation based on solidarity.
Such a cooperation must range from the cultural to the economic. We aspire not only to a numerical increase of per capita income, but also to a fair distribution of wealth so that well-being and prosperity can be placed at everyone's reach and the population be guaranteed an access to the goods basic to human dignity. This must be the result of a joint effort, that of the government and that of the people. Education and work are the tools of progress and self-improvement. Personal, individual, and combined efforts must be encouraged. We believe in the promoting role of the state, a promoter state that fosters individual and social initiatives, yet does not waive its social function of intervention, regulation, and control.
We believe in foreign investments to be measured according to national convenience when they constitute financial injections and not simple patent permits that will absorb national savings and derive from them their profits without incurring the risk of investing their own capital. We act in this respect within the framework of Decision 24 of the Andean Pact because we wish to strengthen our own sources of financing.
We know that in many cases foreign capital, without losing sight of its profit-making goals, attempts to create wealth and employment in our countries. If it comes to us with that purpose, we welcome it. However, we have suffered exploitation and exaction from transnational companies whose doubtful procedures and excessive pursuit of profit forced the United States to legislate against monopolies.
We desire as much as you do a democratic Latin America—peace loving and respectful of human rights. Liberty must be supported on social justice if it wants to overcome critical poverty, disease, lack of culture, and backwardness. It is on the basis of nonintervention and respect for free self-determination of nations that we shall be able to achieve collective security and protect our region from the great world tensions where threatening language can trigger conflicts capable of destroying peace.
We are committed to democracy. Neither the traditional dictatorships nor the new leftist totalitarianisms represent valid solutions to nations whose vocation is liberty. In this line of conduct, we give active political and moral support to the government junta of El Salvador, presided by our distinguished friend Jose Napoleon Duarte, who is trying to offer a democratic and institutional way out of the situation of violence and terrorism existing in his country.
We have stretched out a hand to Nicaragua, as Latin America awaits its conversion to democracy after it supported its struggle against a dynastic dictatorship. As long as there remains any rational hope for a pluralistic society to be achieved there, we shall maintain our attitude of cooperation.
We are aware of the existence of destabilizing tensions and predications in the Caribbean, but we must weigh wisely our actions there so as to prevent conflicts from expanding and endangering world peace. We oppose any kind of foreign intervention and reject all provocative action taken by underpowers that act as mandataries in the Central American region and in the Caribbean.
The summit conference of Cancun took place a few weeks ago, and we had there the opportunity to exchange views on the international situation. You were witness to the seriousness, the dignity, and independence of Venezuela's position as stated in my speeches.
We did our best so that this unique, historical, momentous dialog between industrialized countries and developing nations would not end in failure. We all made a joint effort to avoid confrontation and seek foremost the positive coincidences that would lead to the necessary cooperation. The step taken was yet a modest one, but it brought out the political will of the 22 attending chiefs of state and government to pursue global negotiations within the framework of the United Nations.
Upon your return from Mexico you said that the efforts and constructive spirit which characterized the discussions at Cancun must continue. And the American Ambassador to the United Nations declared recently that every one of us bears the responsibility for transplanting the spirit of Cancun to all the forums of the United Nations system. This time we cannot fail. These words bring optimism to the developing world, which trusts the understanding and the good disposition of the United States.
Mr. President, Venezuela projects democracy and freedom in its foreign policy and has made its energetic wealth act as a concrete instrument of negotiation, cooperation, and international solidarity. A great many coincidences with the United States enable us to march side by side on the road of human freedom.
In your two speeches today, Mr. President, you referred first to Venezuelans such as Simon Bolivar, and in your speech tonight to young compatriots of mine who are in this world of sports, who, at a time not too far away nor too near this day, were people that were of interest to you and me when we were sports journalists.
You have called our compatriots, David Concepcion and Tony Armas, who today are excellent players in the big leagues. And if you allow me this association of ideas, perhaps you might have believed in the talks I had today with you and with high representatives of your government that my position as was stated on Central America and the Caribbean is too optimistic. But I am an optimist, and I believe you are one, too.
When you were a candidate for the Presidency, on our television we saw many of the films in which you acted years ago, and I remember one very specially which is related to baseball.
You were playing the role of a pitcher, a great pitcher, who suddenly felt, let's say, a drop in his physical conditions, and it was the trust of his friends and his moral conviction that he had to play to have his team win that made the team win.
And I am sure that your quarry of optimism has not run dry. And although perhaps the situation might seem sometimes dramatic, we can be certain that it is people—men and people like those of the United States and Venezuela who love freedom-those are the ones that will win.
To reiterate, allow me to reiterate my gratitude and that of Betty and the persons who accompany me for all your kindness, and as I do so, I raise my glass in a toast to your personal happiness, that of your distinguished wife, to the democratic success of your government, and the prosperity and happiness of the people of the United States, a people forever committed to liberty.
More about Luis Herrera Campins:
An interview to Luis Herrera from Tal Cual, 2003. (in Spanish).
A note from Noticias 24. (in Spanish)
Luis Herrera Campíns government (by Fundación Empresas Polar). (in Spanish).