Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013

World leaders mourn Chavez

Condolences poured in Wednesday from world leaders who had found common cause with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in his 14-year campaign to galvanize the Latin American left and defy US “imperialism.”
Ideological allies in Latin America lined up to salute the late firebrand as Russia, China and Iran paid tribute to a key regional partner, while the United States expressed hope for improved ties with oil-rich Venezuela.
Chavez, 58, died after a long battle with cancer, plunging Venezuela into an uncertain future after 14 years of rule by the charismatic former paratrooper, a standard-bearer of Latin America’s “anti-imperialist” left. His death leaves a complex legacy for his successor, with elections expected in 30 days, newspapers and online sites said.
Cuba hailed Chavez as a “true son” to the communist nation’s retired 86-year-old revolutionary icon Fidel Castro and declared three days of national mourning.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Chavez an “uncommon and strong man” and thanked him for laying the “solid basis” for Russia-Venezuela relations.
China, which also cultivated strong economic ties with Chavez’s Venezuela, called him a “great leader” and a “great friend of the Chinese people.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Chavez had fallen as a “martyr” to a “suspect illness,” apparently referring to claims by Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro that the cancer that killed him was part of a conspiracy.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to Chavez’s work on behalf of his country’s poor and his support of Colombia’s peace process, saying he “spoke to the challenges and aspirations of the most vulnerable Venezuelans.”
Latin American leaders — even those ideologically at odds with Chavez — praised him as a strong leader who had worked to unify the region.