Havana : Condolences poured in on Wednesday 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, reports AFP.
Chavez, 58, died after a long battle with cancer, plunging Venezuela into an uncertain future after 14 years of rule by the charismatic former paratrooper, a standard-bearer of Latin America’s “anti-imperialist” left. 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 lose 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.