But he added, "No remotely honest person, not even his fiercest opponent, can deny the level of camaraderie, of trust and even of love that Mr. Chavez felt for the poor of Venezuela and the cause of Latin American integration."
Chavez was the driving force behind creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a 12-nation organization, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of our America (ALBA), whose members include Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and a few Caribbean nations. Its goal is economic integration and mutual economic aid among members.
Chavez also hosted the meeting that led to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States -- a grouping whose members hope might become an alternative to the Organization of American States, which includes the United States and Canada.
But even within these organizations, there is disagreement about goals.
"Mr. Chavez's legacy in the realm of ideas will need further work if they are to become a reality in the messy world of politics, where ideas are debated and contested. A world without him will require other leaders to display the effort and force of will he did, so that his dreams will not be remembered only on paper," Lula da Silva said in his op-ed piece.
Analysts say Ecuador's Correa may be the best positioned for the Chavez role.
"Our commitment today more than ever is not to take a single step back from fulfilling your dreams, which are our shared dreams," Correa said in a televised address after Chavez's death.
Although Correa has been criticized for an authoritarian streak, he is charismatic and recently won re-election by a substantial margin. Ecuador also has oil wealth -- albeit not nearly as much as Venezuela -- and Correa's popularity has risen as he has used that money to invest in education, roads and other infrastructure and cash subsidies for the poor.
"I think the one who has made a claim is Correa. That's based on his easy victory in the polls last month," said Negroponte. "However, Correa doesn't have all that much oil."
While there are other Latin American leaders who share Chavez's causes, most have limitations that make it unlikely they will become his ideological heir apparent, said Erick Langer, director of Georgetown University's Center for Latin American Studies.
Evo Morales, for example, has domestic problems and isn't particularly interested in playing on a larger stage, he said. While Lula da Silva relished his role as a global citizen, Rousseff has made it clear she prefers to concentrate on domestic issues.
Argentina's Fernandez, who was one of the first to arrive in Caracas to pay her respects but left before the funeral, may also have her hands full with domestic problems.
Ortega "has disqualified himself with corruption issues in Nicaragua," said Langer.
"I don't think there is a clear leader who would fill the void" left by Chavez, Weyland said.
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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