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World mourns Chavez passing Featured
06 March 2013   PTI

World mourns Chavez passing

Reactions to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were as mixed, polemical and outsized as the leader was in life, with some saying his passing was a tragic loss and others calling it an opportunity for Venezuela to escape his long shadow.

Seen as a hero by some for his anti-US rhetoric and gifts of cut-rate oil, others considered him a bully. A teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez's closest allies and most loyal disciples, declared that "Chavez is more alive than ever."
"Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation," Morales said in a televised speech. "Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors. Hugo Chavez will always be with us, accompanying us."

 

In Cuba, President Raul Castro's government declared two days of national mourning and ordered the flag to fly at half-staff. "It is with deep and excruciating sorrow that our people and the revolutionary government have learned of President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias' decease," it said in a statement read on the nightly state TV newscast. "The Cuban people view him as one of their most outstanding sons."

Some islanders worried that the loss of the country's No. 1 ally, who has sent billions of dollars of oil to Cuba at preferential terms, could have a negative ripple effect there. "It's a very tough blow. ... Now I wonder, what is to become of us?" said Maite Sierra, a 72-year-old Havana resident. "It's troubling what could come now, first for Venezuela but also for Cuba," said Sergio Duran, a Havana resident. "Everything will depend on what happens in Venezuela, but in any case it will never be the same as with Chavez, even if Chavez's party wins" in upcoming elections.

Filmmaker Oliver Stone, who produced a film about Chavez and his leftist allies, wrote in his Twitter account, "I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world ... Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history. My friend,
rest finally in a peace long earned."

Some of the estimated 189,219 Venezuelan immigrants living in the United States - about half of them in Florida -turned out cheering and waving their country's flag and expressed hope that change would come to their homeland.

"He's gone!" dozens in a largely anti-Chavez community chanted after word spread of the socialist's death.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, another Chavez ally, declared three days of mourning nationwide. She and President Jose Mujica of neighboring Uruguay also prepared to travel to Venezuela for the funeral.

In Nicaragua, another nation that broadly benefited from Venezuelan cut-rate oil, Rosario Murillo, the wife and spokeswoman of President Daniel Ortega, said Chavez is "one of the dead who never die."

"We are all Chavez," she said in televised comments. But Raul Martinez, a leader of the leftist, pro-government Sandinista Youth group, acknowledged in an interview with a local television station that "it is a hard blow."

"Hugo Chavez was our best ally, but we are confident that the Venezuelans we will continue their support," Martinez. Former US President Jimmy Carter released a statement saying Chavez "will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments."

"We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized," Carter wrote."Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen."

At the United Nations, Russian UN Ambassador VitalyChurkin called the death a tragedy. "He was a great politician for his country, Latin America and the world. He played a very important role in the development of relations between Venezuela and Russia, so we feel very badly about it," Churkin said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague sent condolences to Venezuela and the family of Chavez, who he said "left a lasting impression on the country and more widely" during his 14 years as president. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered condolences to Venezuela's people and said he hopes Chavez's death brings hope of a better future.

"At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights," Harper said in a statement.

A wistful Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador and another of Chavez's closest allies, predicted Chavez would have a lasting influence. "We have lost a revolutionary, but millions of us remain inspired."

For good or ill, Chavez's influence was felt across Latin America. Alfonso Astorga, 65, a math teacher, was holding back tears as he walked into a store in a wealthy neighborhood of Santiago, Chile. "He was an example of courage, struggle and passion for Latin America's integration," Astorga said. "The world loses a great man."

In China, which has provided tens of billions of dollars in loans that helped bankr oll Chavez's social programs in exchange for oil, Chinese leaders did not immediately comment. But the Internet, the freest court of public opinion in China, crackled with praise for Chavez for standing up to the US and for his socialist policies.

Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, whose ode to revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara became famous, used the song's title words to bid farewell to Chavez on his blog.

Condolences continued to pour in  from world leaders who had found common cause with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in his 14-year campaign to galvanize the Latin American left and defy US "imperialism."
 Ideological allies in Latin America lined up to salute the late firebrand as Russia, China and Iran paid tribute to a key regional partner, while the United States expressed hope for improved ties with oil-rich Venezuela.
  Cuba hailed Chavez as a "true son" to the communist nation's retired 86-year-old revolutionary icon Fidel Castro and declared three days of mourning in honor of its closest regional ally and main economic benefactor.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin called Chavez an "uncommon and strong man who looked into the future and always set the highest target for himself" and thanked him for laying the "solid basis" for Russia-Venezuela relations. Russia enjoys close military ties with Venezuela, which also represents one of the main oversees investment targets of the giant state oil company Rosneft.
  China, which also cultivated strong economic ties with Chavez's Venezuela, called him a "great leader" and a "great friend of the Chinese people."

  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Chavez had fallen as a "martyr" to a "suspect illness," apparently referring to claims by Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro that the cancer that killed him was part of a conspiracy. "Venezuela lost its brave, strong son and the world lost a wise and revolutionary leader," Ahmadinejad added.    "I have no doubt that he will return, along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human," a reference to Shiite Islam's 12th imam, which Iran's majority faith believes will return with Christ to bring peace and justice to the world

Washington's response to the death of Chavez, who had repeatedly thumbed his nose at the United States and referred to president George W Bush as a "donkey" and the "devil," was more circumspect.

"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a
constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government," President Barack Obama said in a short statement.

"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote
democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Chavez's work on behalf of his country's poor and his support of Colombia's peace process, saying he "spoke to the challenges and aspirations of the most vulnerable Venezuelans."



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