Death of Hugo Chavez: Leaders Around the World Respond

While there was deep mourning in Latin America, Chávez’s death on Tuesday at the age of 58 was marked with a mix of emotions.

Chávez, who had been battling cancer since 2011, was seen as a hero by some for his socialist programs, his anti-U.S. rhetoric and gifts of cut-rate oil. Others considered him a bully who repressed his opponents.

Issuing a statement about his death, President Barack Obama put the focus on interest in developing a "constructive relationship" with Venezuela following 14 years in which Chávez cast himself as a barrier to relations with the U.S.

"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," the statement read.

A teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chávez's closest allies and most loyal disciples, declared that "Chávez is more alive than ever."

"Chávez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation," Morales said Tuesday in a televised speech. "Chávez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors. Hugo Chávez will always be with us, accompanying us."

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who steps down this month, and his replacement, Xi Jinping, sent condolence letters to Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the interim president ahead of new elections.

"President Chávez was a great leader of Venezuela and a good friend to the Chinese people," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily media briefing. "He made significant contributions to the friendly cooperative relationship between China and Venezuela."

In its quest to secure resources for its fast-growing economy over the past decade, China has forged a useful friendship with Chávez centered on oil. Tens of billions of dollars in Chinese loans, repayable in oil, helped fund social programs and consumer goods giveaways that made Chávez popular. His anti-American policies and posturing was also looked upon positively by some in Beijing, though Chinese leaders were careful not to show public support.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro's government declared two days of national mourning and ordered the flag to fly at half-staff.

"It is with deep and excruciating sorrow that our people and the revolutionary government have learned of President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias' decease," it said in a statement read on the nightly state TV newscast. "The Cuban people view him as one of their most outstanding sons."

Chávez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors. Hugo Chávez will always be with us...

- Bolivian President Evo Morales

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, like Chávez a frequent U.S. adversary, announced a day of mourning and compared Chávez to a saint, saying he will "return on resurrection day."

Ahmadinejad said he has "no doubt Chávez will return to Earth together with Jesus and the perfect" Imam Mahdi, the most revered figure of Shiite's Muslims, and help the two "establish peace, justice and kindness" in the world. He said he believes something "suspicious" caused the cancer that killed Chávez.

Several U.S. allies offered praise for Chávez, though some, like France's Socialist President Francois Hollande, noted that "not everyone shared" his political views.

In a statement, Hollande, who made social and economic justice a pillar of his campaign for France's presidency last year, praised Chávez' "undeniable will to fight for justice and development."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement that Chávez's death was "a heavy blow," but also said Venezuela would move on to "new times."

"Venezuela has great potential, and democracy and freedom are the right paths to realize this potential," Westerwelle said.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez declared three days of mourning nationwide. She and President Jose Mujica of neighboring Uruguay prepared to travel to Venezuela for the funeral.

In Nicaragua, a nation that broadly benefited from Venezuelan cut-rate oil, Rosario Murillo, the wife and spokeswoman of President Daniel Ortega, said Chávez is "one of the dead who never die."

"We are all Chávez," she said in televised comments.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter released a statement saying Chávez "will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments."

"We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized," Carter wrote. "Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen."

At the United Nations, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the death a tragedy.

"He was a great politician for his country, Latin America and the world. He played a very important role in the development of relations between Venezuela and Russia, so we feel very badly about it," Churkin said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague sent condolences to Venezuela and the family of Chávez, who he said "left a lasting impression on the country and more widely" during his 14 years as president.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered condolences to Venezuela's people and said he hopes Chávez's death brings hope of a better future.

"At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights," Harper said in a statement.

A wistful Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador and another of Chávez's closest allies, predicted Chávez would have a lasting influence. "We have lost a revolutionary, but millions of us remain inspired."

For good or ill, Chávez's influence was felt across Latin America. Alfonso Astorga, 65, a math teacher, was holding back tears as he walked into a store in a wealthy neighborhood of Santiago, Chile.

"He was an example of courage, struggle and passion for Latin America's integration," Astorga said. "The world loses a great man."

In Asia, people felt a sense of loss in countries including Vietnam. "Chávez had a very strong character," civil servant Nguyen Van Ngoc said in Hanoi. "The United States tried to exert influence in Latin America, but it couldn't do anything to countries like Venezuela and Cuba."

China's Internet, its freest court of public opinion, crackled with praise for Chávez for standing up to the U.S. and for his socialist policies.

"Chávez and the '21st century socialism' he advocated was a big bright spot after drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe sunk the world socialist movement in a low ebb, and he was known as an 'anti-American standard-bearer," Zhu Jidong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' World Socialism Research Center wrote on his feed on Sina Corporation's Twitter-like microblog service. "Mourn this great fighter."

There was no shortage of emotional farewells to a socialist hero who some feel rivaled the revolutionaries of the 1960s.

Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, whose ode to revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara became famous, used the song's title words to bid farewell to Chávez on his blog.

"Hasta siempre, comandante," he wrote, Spanish for "Farewell forever, commander.”

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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