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Just hours after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his work in attempting to end the country’s decades-long civil conflict with the FARC rebels, Venezuela decided to create its own peace prize — in honor of late socialist leader Hugo Chávez.
And the inaugural winner of the award is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I've decided to create the Hugo Chávez prize for peace and sovereignty," Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said during the unveiling of a statue of Chávez designed by a Russian artist, according to Reuters.
Describing Russia’s Putin as a "fighter for peace," Maduro added: "I think President Vladimir Putin deserves this Hugo Chavez award."
Maduro said the prize would be offered to national and international figures “who have excelled in the struggle for peace” and added that Putin was chosen to be the inaugural winner of the award because he is a strong ally of Venezuela.
While winners of the Nobel Peace Prize receive a nice financial prize of almost $1 million, winners of the Chávez will be given a miniature replica of the statute as a reward from the cash-strapped Venezuelan government.
Putin, who has been heavily criticized for his support of Syrian strongman Bashar Al-Assad, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, despite Russian soldiers invasion of Ukraine that same year. He eventually lost to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, who were recognized for their work against the suppression of children and young people.
The Hugo Chávez award is another puzzling twist by Maduro amid the country’s continuing political and economic woes.
For months, the Maduro government has faced widespread protests and unrest as inflation soars and Venezuelans struggle to get ahold of basic food stuffs, supplies and medicine. Critics blame Maduro and his administration for the ever-worsening economic malaise and have mocked him for attempting to build Venezuela's presence in international politics as he struggles to maintain order in his own country.
Under Chávez’s 14 years in power, Venezuela built close alliances with traditional adversaries of the United States including Russia and China and challenged the U.S.-influence in Latin America.
Maduro – who has continued Chávez’s anti-U.S. policies – has blamed his country’s economic situation on opposition lawmakers that he believes are backed by the U.S. government.