Venezuelan negotiator thanks Hugo Chavez for Paris climate deal

PARIS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s chief climate negotiator aims to visit the tomb of late socialist President Hugo Chavez to honor him as the unacknowledged architect of the Paris agreement on Saturday to slow global warming.

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“He was right. We’re here because of him,” Claudia Salerno, among the most combative and long-serving negotiators at U.N. talks, told Reuters, saying Chavez’s opposition that helped block a 2009 summit on global warming in Copenhagen was a spur for nations to return to negotiate a better accord this year.

Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013, was among a handful of leaders, mostly left-wingers from Latin America, who said the climate deal in Copenhagen did not demand enough greenhouse gas cuts by rich nations.

“I will most likely visit his tomb,” she said, and take along the text of the Paris accord, which obliges developed nations to do more to help poorer nations adapt to more heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising seas.

Salerno cut her hand banging the table in a fraught final night of negotiations in Copenhagen. “Do you think a sovereign country has to actually cut its hand and draw blood?” she asked the Danish hosts, accusing them of ignoring her.

Salerno’s Twitter profile has a photograph of Chavez in the background and she regularly wears a Chavez pin on her blazer.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave Salerno, Venezuela’s ambassador to the European Union, responsibility for writing the preamble of the Paris accord. It includes mentions of gender equality, human rights, rights of indigenous peoples and the need to protect Mother Earth.

Delegates said that was part of a strategy to head off possible objections from Venezuela after Copenhagen’s failure.

Salerno unnerved many in Bonn in October by being the most critical at preparatory talks for Paris, saying: “I have seen this movie ... I hope this is not going to be a really, really nasty bad second Copenhagen”.

In Venezuela last week, the opposition won control of the legislature for the first time in 16 years of Socialist rule in an election in the OPEC nation.

On the world stage, Chavez most famously complained in 2006 at the United Nations of the “smell of sulphur” at a podium where the “devil” George W. Bush had stood the day before.

Earlier this week, Salerno was already bullish on a final outcome. “For the first time we have this sense that finally, our paranoia has disappeared,” she said.

Salerno said she has had to raise her voice in the past to make sure other countries are heard in the talks.

She says her daughter, now seven, has been calling Salerno every day. “My kids are asking me every day if we reached a deal. That’s even more pressure than from my own government,” she said.

Reporting By Alister Doyle