Dima Al Khatib Remembers Hugo Chavez

Some liked him, others hated him, but the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez held a special place in the heart of Arab journalist Dima Al Khatib. As Al Jazeera's Latin America bureau chief, the Syrian-born Palestinian journalist developed a close relationship with Chavez during her 10-year stay in Caracas. Al Khatib, who is now teaching in Dubai, reveals more about this bond in a series of tweets following his death on Tuesday [March 5, 2013].

In addition to her tweets, Khatib went back to the studio to give a series of interviews on Chavez.

On Twitter, she explains [ar]:

تعرفت على الراحل أوغو تشافس في سبتمبر أيلول ٢٠٠٢ في كاراكاس، أي قبل أكثر من ١٠ سنوات. أجريت معه ٥ لقاءات خاصة ورافقته في ترحاله حول العالم

@Dima_Khatib: I got to know Hugo Chavez in September 2002 in Caracas, more than 10 years ago. I conducted five exclusive interviews with him and traveled with him around the world

She adds:

#ذكريات_تشافس كنتُ الصحفية الأجنبية الوحيدة، وأحياناً حتى الصحفية الوحيدة على الإطلاق التي كانت ترافق تشافس في ترحاله داخل فنزويلا وخارجها

@Dima_Khatib: I was the only foreign journalist, and sometimes and only journalist at all, who has accompanied Chavez on his travels in Venezuela and abroad

And says:

#ذكريات_تشافس كلما رآني كان يقول : السلام عليكم ، بالعربية

@Dima_Khatib: Every time he met me, he would say Al Salam Alaykom (Greeting: Peace be on you) in Arabic

Many recalled Khatib's closeness to Chavez. Tunisian journalist tounsiahorra tweets:

تذكرت لقاءكما انت وشافيز في مقر الجزيرة…. ذلك الود والبساطة التي جمعتكما. الصحافية والزعيم جنبا الى جنب دون بروتوكولات

: I remembered your meeting with Chavez at Al Jazeera's headquarters [in Doha, Qatar]. Friendship and simplicity joined you. The journalist and the leader, side by side, without any protocols

Khatib shares many tidbits of information about Chavez on her Twitter account, which has become popular during the Arab uprisings. She asks:

@Dima_Khatib: Who would have thought that Fidel Castro would stay.. and Hugo Chavez would go ?

Dima Al Khatib speaks to Al Jazeera about Chavez following his death on Tuesday. Photograph from Khatib's Instagram

Dima Al Khatib speaks to Al Jazeera about Chavez following his death on Tuesday. Photograph from Khatib's Instagram

In response to a question on whether people in Venezuela like him, Khatib responds:

@Dima_Khatib: Many do. Others don't. But yes he is a popular guy. You either love him or hate him. Very polarising

In another tweet, she wonders whether Arabs too are polarised in their opinion. She reasons:

نعم أعرف .. نحن العرب محتارون .. نحزن أم لا نحزن على رحيل تشافس؟.. هو دعم فلسطين كما فعل قليلون في عصرنا، ثم لم يدعم الثورات العربية

@Dima_Khatib: Yes, I know. We Arabs are confused. Shall we feel sad or not on Chavez's departure? He has supported the Palestinian cause like very few in this era. And then again, he did not support the Arab uprisings.

On her memories with Chavez, Khatib is debating writing a book.

قد أكتب يوماً ما عن تجاربي مع تشافس .. والأحاديث التي دارت بيني وبينه عن قضايا كثيرة .. على مدى عشر سنوات .. وقد لا أكتب .. لا أعرف صراحة

@Dima_Khatib: I might one day write about my experiences with Chavez and the conversations we had over many issues.. over 10 years .. and I might not. I honestly don't know.

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