Tuesday, March 5, 2013

World leaders pay tribute to Chavez
The Life and Legacy of  venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
By Becky Bratu, Staff Writer, NBC News

As Venezuela’s Vice President, Nicolas Maduro, broke the news of Hugo Chavez’s death Tuesday, he urged the nation not to cry, but instead carry on with “much strength, much prayer” and “the greatest of loves that Hugo Chávez Frías planted in our heart.”

"It's a moment of deep pain," he said in the address.

Chavez, the charismatic leftist who dominated his country with sweeping political change and flamboyant speeches, died Tuesday at age 58, after a long battle with cancer that was shrouded in mystery and prevented him from being inaugurated for a fourth term.

Following the news and Maduro’s call for solidarity, Henrique Capriles Radonski, who lost to Chávez in the October election, tweeted his own message for the nation: "My solidarity with all the family and followers of President Hugo Chávez, we advocate for the unity of Venezuelans at this time," he said.

A vote is expected to be held within 30 days and will likely pit Maduro against Capriles.

Reactions to the death of a leader who was both loved and reviled at home and abroad poured in from around the world, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offering his "deepest condolences" to the people of Venezuela.

'A tragedy'
Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, suspended activities after receiving the news. She and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, were close friends of Chavez.

And Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin said of the death: "It's a tragedy. He was a great politician," while Bolivia's President Evo Morales announced he would travel immediately to Caracas to pay his respects. Uruguayan president José Mujica is also expected to travel to Caracas in the morning.

Chile and Ecuador released official notes of condolence, while in Peru a minute of silence was held in Chavez’s honor.

Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos tweeted: "I profoundly lament the death of the president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez Frías. Our sincere condolences … " a message also echoed by Mexico's President, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, says she is mourning the loss of a great "friend" of her country, the BBC reported.

"This death should fill all Latin and Central Americans with sadness," she added, according to the BBC. "Hugo Chavez was without doubt a leader committed to his country and to the development of the people of Latin America."

In the United States, Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., who represents a largely Hispanic district, tweeted his condolences: “Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.”

While former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said in a statement that Chavez "will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments."

Joseph P. Kennedy II, chairman of non-profit Citizens Energy, which was criticized for receiving heating oil donations from the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, released a statement thanking Chavez for his generosity.

"There are close to two million people in the United States who received free heating assistance, thanks to President Chavez's leadership," Kennedy's statement read. "Our prayers go out to President Chavez's family, the people of Venezuela, and all who were warmed by his generosity."

But Chavez has often criticized the United States on its history of intervention in the Americas and Washington's stance on countries such as Iran.

And the friction between the U.S. and the Chavez regime lasted until the end of his life. Only minutes before the Venezuelan leader’s death was announced, the State Department issued a statement rejecting Maduro’s earlier accusations that Chavez’s enemies gave him cancer and that U.S. diplomats in Venezuela plotted to destabilize the government.

Support for the Venezuelan people
Following the news of his death, the White House released a statement reinforcing its goal of developing a better relationship with the Venezuelan government.

“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’s statement read. “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.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Mike Rogers, R-Mich., also said he hoped for the two countries to turn a new leaf in their relationship.

"Hugo Chavez was a destabilizing force in Latin America, and an obstacle to progress in the region. I hope his death provides an opportunity for a new chapter in U.S.-Venezuelan relations," he said.

But Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., took a different stance with the following statement: "Sic semper tyrannis,” which translates to, “Thus always to tyrants." That also happens to be what John Wilkes Boothe said before fatally shooting President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre.

"After the welcome news of Hugo Chavez's death, I hope that the oppressed people of Venezuela will be able to live in freedom, not under miserable tyranny. I look forward to working in the House to promote a free, democratic, and pro-American government in Venezuela," Cotton added.

NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Edgar Zuniga, Sofia Perpetua, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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