Thursday, December 5, 2013

Latin American Leaders Pay Tribute to Mandela

Former South African president, anti-apartheid activist and humanitarian Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” current South African leader Jacob Zuma said in a televised speech announcing the death of the man his followers referred to as Madiba.

Numerous Latin American heads of state joined in the countless number of tribunes to Mandela who passed away after a lengthy illness.
“Humanity has lost a tireless fighter for peace, liberty and equality.  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela,” declared Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto via Twitter.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff praised Mandela as the “greatest figure of the twentieth century” and “a warrior who transformed the paradigm not only for the African continent” but for the entire world.
“Nine months after the death of our commander (former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez) another Giant of the Global Community has left us,” tweeted Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro who also declared three days of mourning.  (A statement from the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable praised Mandela as “an example, guide and inspiration for all those who want to live in freedom and peace.”)  

Maduro’s Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, also declared three days of mourning and added, “We know that his legacy will prevail, and that his life will continue to inspire those who believe that a better world is possible.”  Juan Orlando Hernández, the recent president-elect of neighboring Honduras, said that he was “highly moved by the death of Nelson Mandela.”

“We deeply regret the death of Nelson Mandela.  His legacy serves as our guide to attain peace,” tweeted Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in reference to his government’s negotiations with the FARC guerillas.  (Santos’ predecessor Álvaro Uribe also referred to the discussions when he tweeted “Mandela vindicated democratic rights in contrast to the narcoterrorists who destroy them.”)

In the 1950s, Mandela became involved in anti-colonial politics, joined the African National Congress and worked as a lawyer helping mistreated black residents.  He was arrested in 1962 and originally sentenced to five years in prison though that punishment was extended to a lifetime imprisonment in a subsequent trial.

During his time behind bars, Mandela received global support from governments and activists opposed to the South African apartheid system.  Among the figures he would thank for their assistance was Cuban leader Fidel Castro who he credited with “not hesitating to give us all his help” in the battle against apartheid. 

Mandela was released on February 1990 after having spent 27 years in three separate prisons including the infamous Robben Island.  He visited several Latin American countries months after his release from prison and sought international pressure against the apartheid structure still in place in his native land.  One of those states was Brazil where he received the Grand Cross of the Order of Rio Branco and also spoke to a massive crowd of about 150,000 people in Bahia. (A portion of his visit to Brazil may be seen in the embedded video above).

In 1993, Mandela was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and a year later he would emerge as the clear winner in South Africa’s first democratic elections.  During his five years in office he visited the Americas numerous times such as his 1998 visit to Argentina where he received a “thunderous ovation” from the country’s Congress.

Video Source– YouTube user Cultne Acervo

Online Sources – Portal a Tarde; La Nacion; The Huffington Post; El Diario; El Universal; El Nacional; Terra Brasil; Nicaragua Dispatch; El Espectador; Colombia Reports; BBC News

No comments: