They left us in 2013 - Mandela, Thatcher, Chavez lead cast of outstanding world figures who died this year

Published: Tuesday | December 31, 2013 Comments 0
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's coffin is carried by pall-bearers out from St Paul's Cathedral following her funeral.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's coffin is carried by pall-bearers out from St Paul's Cathedral following her funeral.
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez

 Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

It was a year when the world mourned the loss of three of the most influential leaders to have graced the main stage. Well, at least a major portion of the globe did mourn.

The three were world leaders - one current and two past - who slipped into the 'Great Unknown' in 2013, along with a host of 'lesser mortals', who also made significant contributions to mankind in their own way.

They were all fighters, waging war of one kind or another for humanity as they perceived it - reaping punishments, reprisals, condemnations, and criticisms, faltering at times, but never yielding to the forces against which they stood.

They were born at different times, in different parts of the globe, not with gold spoons or golden opportunities, yet they became great in their own right, making indelible marks on the global landscape.

They shared some things in common. The most glaring was unyielding courage, even under the most intense of pressures, and they would not capitulate under duress, that is, until they were called home by a higher force.

The steely Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chávez, died in office. He was the first of the 'Big Three' to die this year and the youngest.

Margaret Thatcher, Britain's former prime minister, described as the 'Iron Lady', was the second to go.

She was followed by iconic former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who also passed away during his twilight years after completing service to his people and beyond.

Mandela was the first of the three world forces to grace the Earth as he was born on July 18, 1918, but the last to leave having died on December 5, 2013, at age 95. Chávez, who was born on July 24,1954, died on March 5, 2013, at age 58. Born on October 13, 1925, Thatcher slipped away at age 87, on April 8, 2013.

None buckled to man-made forces.

Mandela, the former South African prisoner-turned-president and before that civil-rights activist and political leader, wrestled the oppressive system of apartheid and took his last breath after battling respiratory challenges.

Thatcher, the daughter of a small businessman and educated at a local grammar school, went against the political grain in Great Britain to cut social welfare programmes, reduced trade union power, and privatised certain industries. She died after suffering a stroke.

And, Chávez, the president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013, sold oil to Cuba, the perennial pariah of the United States(US), and in doing so, strained relations with that country.

He thumbed his nose at the mighty US before yielding to cancer.

Despite the similarities, the contrast among the three world giants was as stark as the lands in which they were born.

Nobel peace prize

Mandela, the civil rights activist and world leader, who became the first black president of South Africa, has been hailed as a symbol of global peacemaking, for which he copped the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

As her epithet suggests, Thatcher was a tough cookie. The 'Iron Lady' alias came about because of her uncompromising politics and leadership style as she implemented policies that have come to be known as Thatcherisms.

If Mandela exuded an aura of peace and Thatcher, an impenetrable exterior, the open defiance of Hugo Chávez, not unlike that of his mentor, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, characterised his mettle.

Even when health issues assailed him, Chávez, a former army paratrooper and firebrand socialist, stood up to the might of the world giant and raging political opposition within his own country.

Another 'legend' who passed away in 2013 was Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian writer made famous by his 1958 groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart that sold more than 12 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

He died on March 21, 2013, at age 82, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Then there were singers such as George Jones and Richie Havens; beloved film critic Roger Ebert; and actors such as, James Gandolfini, Paul Walker, and Jean Stapleton who also passed away in 2013.

Some Jamaicans who died in 2013 included Richard Hart, historian and politician; Lloyd Robinson; Junior Murvin; and Prince Jazzbo, a reggae performer and producer whose career spanned 40 years.

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