World leaders reacted to the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, the populist figurehead of Latin American socialism whose larger-than-life personality split both international and domestic opinion, with President Vladimir Putin amongst those praising his legacy. Putin said in a Kremlin message of condolence after Chávez’s death on Tuesday following a prolonged battle with cancer, “He was an unorthodox and strong person, who looked to the future and always set himself the highest standards”. Putin added that he was confident that the Venezuelan people would be able to overcome what he called the “test” presented by Chávez’s death and continue to build a “strong, independent, and prosperous” nation. Ties between Russia and Venezuela flourished under Chávez, whose 14-year-rule brought Moscow a number of lucrative arms deals and a close ally in South America. Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said that Chávez had devoted his life to the battle for “justice and equality”, saying in a message of condolence to the Venezuelan people, “We share the pain of your loss… we’ll always remember this wonderful person, patriot, and citizen”.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Venezuela had lost a “brave, wise, and revolutionary leader”. US President Barack Obama… whose country was frequently the subject of Chávez’s ire… was much more lukewarm, saying, “At this challenging time of President Hugo Chávez’s passing, the USA reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the USA remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights”. Former US President Jimmy Carter said in a statement that Chávez would go down in history “for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments”.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said simply that he was “conveying condolences to Chávez’s family and the people of Venezuela”. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “I was saddened to learn of the death of President Hugo Chávez today. As President of Venezuela for 14 years, he left a lasting impression on the country and more widely”. In Cuba, the government said in a statement that Chávez had “stood by Fidel [Castro] like a true son”. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said, “This death should fill all Latin and Central Americans with sadness. Hugo Chávez was, without doubt, a leader committed to his country and to the development of the people of Latin America. Chávez was a great leader, an irreparable loss, and, above all, a friend of Brazil”.
6 March 2013