A new course on the late Hugo Chavez at a Caracas military institute earns praise while also stirring controversy in a divided Venezuela. Gavino Garay reports.
The legacy Hugo Chavez is alive. Students attend a lecture on the late socialist leader who died of cancer last year. "Studies of the Thoughts of the Supreme Commander Hugo Chavez," offered by the Venezuelan military, already attracted some 10,000 students. The course's director, Taylor Rodriguez, explains how the course came about. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BRIGADIER-GENERAL, TAYLOR RODRIGUEZ, DIRECTOR OF HUGO CHAVEZ COURSE, SAYING: "It came from the need to preserve the legacy of the eternal commander." Critics have related it to a North Korean style of brainwashing. Proponents say it promotes humanist values inspired by Chavez. Colonel Victor Flores says he wanted to keep learning from Chavez, even after his death. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) COLONEL VICTOR FLORES, STUDENT IN HUGO CHAVEZ COURSE, SAYING: "Commander Chavez gave us class every Sunday in a program called 'Hello President' so this is a continuation of those classes." But sociologist Tito Lacruz is cautious about the course's content. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) TITO LACRUZ, SOCIOLOGIST, SAYING: "I don't have anything against studying the thinking of Hugo Chavez, but I don't think it should be the only thinking that is studied." Chavez opponents say it has no academic value. Course instructors challenge that thought, saying criticism is encouraged. The course is not yet offered in private universities.