News Column

Latin America Mourns Chavez

March 6, 2013
Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez's populist brand of socialism divided Latin America while he was alive. But the continent united in mourning him, with many leaders praising his dedication to helping the poor.

"A revolutionary has left us, but millions of us remain inspired by his example. ... An immense Latin American has left us," Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said.

Chavez represented "a more human world," Correa said, expressing trust that "history will recognize the greatness of an extraordinary man."

Governments allied with Venezuela, such as those of Ecuador and Nicaragua, were the first to react to the Venezuelan president's death.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega spoke to hundreds of pro-government activists dressed in white on Managua's Revolution Square, in a ceremony that was broadcast on all radio and television channels.

Ortega pledged to "continue fighting, in order not to betray Chavez, for the unity of our peoples" according to the ideals of Latin American freedom fighter Simon Bolivar.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said that "Hugo Chavez is more alive than ever."

"Chavez will remain an inspiration for peoples who fight for their liberation," Morales, a faithful ally of Chavez's Bolivarian regime, said in the presence of ministers, members of parliament and of social movements.

The government of Cuba, where Chavez underwent cancer treatment for a large part of the last two years of his life, said that "Chavez is also Cuban."

The regime of Cuban President Raul Castro paid tribute to Chavez's support during the "special period" in the 1990s, when communist Cuba suffered great economic hardship following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"He felt our difficulties and problems in his flesh and did as much as he could, with extraordinary generosity," the government said in a statement.

Many ordinary Cubans expressed their appreciation for Chavez. "He was very important for Cuba," said Luis Manuel Bermudez, a 22-year-old philosophy and history student. A 55-year-old woman who was crying in front of the Venezuelan embassy said she felt "great pain."

In Brazil, a visibly moved President Dilma Rousseff said Chavez left a vacuum "in the heart, history and battles of Latin America."

"On many occasions, Brazil's (left-wing) government did not totally agree with him," Rousseff said. But "today, as always, we recognize in him a great leadership, an irreparable loss and above all, a friend of Brazil."

Rousseff's predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said Chavez's "dedication to the cause of the less privileged will continue illuminating the future of Venezuela."

Colombia's conservative President Juan Manuel Santos, whose predecessor Alvaro Uribe had tempestuous relations with Chavez, praised the late Venezuelan leader for helping to launch peace talks between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"The best tribute we can pay is to fulfill the dream of reaching an agreement to end the conflict and to see Colombia in peace," Santos said.

Several leaders stressed Chavez's efforts to help the poor. El Salvadorian President Mauricio Funes said Chavez "changed the reality of unequality and exclusion that the Venezuelan people suffered before he came into government."

Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno emphasized Chavez's "deep concern for the poor."

Cuba, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador decreed periods of mourning.

Venezuela's former colonial power, Spain, said Chavez had "a great influence in Ibero-America" and pledged to strengthen bilateral relations.

Spain often experienced tensions with Chavez, with the problems including the presence of Basque separatists in Venezuela and plans to nationalize Spanish companies operating there.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo described Chavez as a "very singular personality."

Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas said Chavez was "a friend of Portugal" who "undoubtedly marked the recent history of Venezuela and Latin America."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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