Reaction to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
WASHINGTON, March 5
WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, ending 14 years of divisive rule. Following is reaction to Chavez's death:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered his "deepest condolences" to the people of Venezuela.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a statement:
"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.
"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."
Cancer survivor and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told reporters:
"Today a great Latin American died. ... On many occasions, the Brazilian government did not fully agree with President Hugo Chavez but today, as always, we recognize in him a great leader, an irreparable loss and, above all, a friend of Brazil."
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in a statement:
"I received the news of President Hugo Chavez's death with great sadness. I'm proud to have lived and worked with him for the integration of Latin America and for a more just world. My solidarity to the Venezuelan people, to Chavez's family and supporters, on this sad day, but I'm confident that his example of love of the fatherland and his dedication to the cause of the poor will continue to illuminate the future of Venezuela."
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told reporters:
"The obsession that united us and that was the base of our relationship was peace in Colombia and the region. If we've advanced in a solid peace process ... it's also thanks to the dedication and commitment without limits of President Chavez and the Venezuelan government.
"The best tribute we can pay to the memory of Hugo Chavez is to fulfill this dream he shared with us to reach an agreement to end the conflict and to see a peaceful Colombia."
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, in a televised address:
"We undoubtedly had our differences, but I was always able to appreciate the strength, the engagement with which Chavez fought for his ideas.
"When his illness worsened and he had to return to Cuba, I called him and I remember he told me ... that if he had to face death, he wanted to do it in his country, in his beloved Venezuela."
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, in a statement:
"The death of someone who has been one of the strongest and most popular Latin American leaders will, without doubt, produce a vacuum in politics, but most of all, in the heart of all Venezuelan men and women."
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters:
"It's a tragedy. He was a great politician."
Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien in a televised interview:
"He was a great baseball fan and player and he always told me that if I were to visit him in Venezuela we would go to a baseball field and he would throw balls to me for me to hit them, you know, and we never had the occasion to do that.
"On a personal basis, I had really good relations with him. He was not a great admirer of the Americans and he was not shy to discuss that with anybody, including me."
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a statement:
"I was saddened to learn of the death of President Hugo Chavez today. As President of Venezuela for 14 years he has left a lasting impression on the country and more widely. I would like to offer my condolences to his family and to the Venezuelan people at this time."
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement:
"Hugo Chavez ruled Venezuela with an iron hand and his passing has left a political void that we hope will be filled peacefully and through a constitutional and democratic process, grounded in the Venezuelan constitution and adhering to the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
"With free and fair elections, Venezuela can begin to restore its once robust democracy and ensure respect for the human, political and civil rights of its people."
U.S. Representative Ed Royce, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement:
"Hugo Chavez was a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear. His death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America. Good riddance to this dictator.
"Venezuela once had a strong democratic tradition and was close to the United States. Chavez's death sets the stage for fresh elections. While not guaranteed, closer U.S. relations with his key country in our Hemisphere are now possible."
U.S. actor Sean Penn, in a statement:
"Today the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela." (Editing by Jim Loney and Stacey Joyce)
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