One of Hugo Chávez’s favorite political slogans was trending on Twitter in Venezuela hours after his death, where it became a rallying cry for his supporters and a cruel joke for his detractors.
“Socialismo o muerte” -- "socialism or death” -- was a fitting expression to remember a fallen president whose controversial rule polarized the South American country.
“As he always said: Fatherland, Socialism or DEATH!!” one Chávez supporter said on Twitter. “The show must go on! Famous words from our illustrious ex-president!!”
Others turned the expression on Chávez.
“Remember ‘fatherland, socialism or death?’” asked one Twitter user. “Now you have all three!”
The saying is an adaptation of a slogan coined by former Cuban head of state Fidel Castro during a speech at a Havana service for victims of the explosion of the La Coubre, a French freighter carrying an arms shipment. The Cuban government called it an attack by the CIA. The United States denied involvement.
During the speech Castro uttered what would become one of his most famous lines: “fatherland or death, we will triumph!” In a striking coincidence, Chávez died on the anniversary of the date the expression was born in revolutionary Cuba -- March 5, 1960.
Compounding the coincidence, it was at that same event in Cuba that photographer Alberto Korda took the famous photo of Ernesto “Che” Guevara that would turn the Argentine-born revolutionary into an icon and adorn t-shirts across the globe.
Chávez, who idealized Castro and looked to him as a mentor, tweaked the expression slightly. In January 2007, he used the slogan “fatherland, socialism or death!” on the floor of the National Assembly. His supporters in Congress, as well as government ministers, military figures and chavista voters adopted the expression as their own.
But toward the end of his life Chávez had grown tired of the slogan’s morbidity. He tried to change the expression to “homeland, socialism and victory” on his 57th birthday. By that time, he had already undergone the first operation for the undisclosed form of cancer that ultimately killed him on March 5.
“Here there’s not going to be death, we have to live and we have to triumph. That’s why I’m proposing new slogans: ‘homeland, socialism and victory, we will live and we will triumph,’” Chávez said at the time, according to Venezuelan daily El Tiempo.
Another slogan popularized during the Cuban Revolution -- "hasta la victoria, siempre,” or “until victory, always” -- was trending worldwide on Tuesday after the Venezuelan government announced Chávez’s death.
See how supporters and detractors are using the slogan “fatherland, socialism or death” to remember Hugo Chávez in the slideshow above.