CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
Days of wakefulness and prayer preceded the death of John Paul II, the Pilgrim Pope. A cardinal conclave was held at the Vatican to elect Joseph Ratzinger. The successor chose the name of Benedict XVI. In Venezuela, the defeat suffered by the opposition the prior year in the presidential recall referendum diminished their forces and they opted for abstention; thus paving the way for a National Assembly filled with Hugo Chávez's followers
A crowd crying "Saint, Saint!" attended the funeral of John Paul II. He was succeeded by Joseph Ratzinger File Photo: Andrés Mata Foundation / Patrick Hertzog / AFP
The world wept. Months of anguish followed the news of the disease of John Paul II, the Polish Pope who travelled around the world carrying a message of love, solidarity and respect. On April 2nd, he passed away and left the world in a scent of sanctity, after a 26-year pontificate, sometimes controversial, sometimes with a fresh air of youth.
He visited Venezuela twice. In 1985, his visit halted the country. The "popemobile" went all over the streets and a trail of spirituality filled the country. Eleven years later, in 1996, he came back with his love message and a longstanding dream of waking up and reacting in the face of ups and downs, injustices and evils.
Following the cardinal conclave, he was succeeded by German Joseph Ratzinger, who adopted the name of Benedict XVI.
About three months ahead of this world event, Venezuela suffered again the onslaught of nature. It was not as powerful as the Vargas disaster in early December 1999. Anyway, strong winds caused a trough that left behind anguish, death, and frustration in view of the authorities' unresponsiveness.
The United States also underwent the ordeal of a natural disaster due to climate conditions, when Hurricane Katrina swept New Orleans away.
But disasters were not only because of the nature effects. A West Caribbean airliner plunged in the town of Machiques, western Zulia state, with a death toll of 152 French passengers and eight Colombian crew members.
That year, the election for Congress was held in Venezuela. For months, the domestic opposition pondered on its participation or not in a defective polling. Journalists, police officers and politicians in general filled the opposition lists for the National Assembly. However, after waging inner battles, the thesis of defection prevailed.
On December 4th, voters, with a very high abstention rate of 74.74 percent, chose 167 deputies of one single political trend. Hugo Chávez got a tailor-made legislature.
Elections were also held at the Organization of American States (OAS), but for secretary-general. There, after an intensive debate, Chilean José Miguel Insulza was the winner, and the successor of Colombian César Gaviria.
In the international arena, Venezuela and Colombia settled their differences arisen from heated microphone diplomacy between their presidents. Ex Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a terrorist attack; whereas the deadline for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip expired.
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