Vandalized Chavez Mural Stirs Political Controversy

Omar Freilla of Green Worker Cooperatives, Danny R. Peralta of The Point CDC and Wanda Salaman of Mothers on the Move stand in front of the vandalized mural. (Photo via The Hunts Point Express)

“A Hunts Point wall has become an unlikely flashpoint for political controversy in recent months,” writes Hunts Point Express’ Joe Hirsch, after unidentified individuals vandalized a mural of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on Barretto Street first in late March, then again in early May, and once more two weeks later. The second incident was filmed by the vandals and posted on a conservative news site in Venezuela.

Artist Andre Trenier of the Bronx had painted the mural on the south side of The Point CDC in commemoration of Chavez’s visit in 2005 to the youth and cultural development nonprofit.

Over the past 15 years, the community service arm of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, CITGO, has been the principal – and sometimes, the only – funder for South Bronx grassroots groups Green Worker Cooperatives, and advocacy group Mothers on the Move, among others. Additionally, CITGO has supplied free heating oil for tenants in housing complexes in low-income neighborhoods around the area.

Omar Freilla, the founder of Green Worker Cooperatives in Hunts Point, said the act of vandalism mirrors what is happening worldwide with the rise of right-wing movements and noted the irony of local organizations being financially supported by a foreign government rather than their own officials.

“Money from Venezuela has been criticized, but if it weren’t for the fund that was set up after Chavez’s visit to the Bronx, our organization would not have survived the (economic) downturn,” he said. “They were the only ones” to offer financing to GreenWorker Cooperatives until the Bloomberg administration pledged some financing three years ago.

Go to The Hunts Point Express for more from Freilla, including the comparison he drew between low-income families in Venezuela and the South Bronx, and for a statement from The Point CDC.

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