Latin America leaders mourn Chavez, US urges better ties
AFPHAVANA -- Latin America mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday as the United States expressed hope his passing would lead to improved relations with the oil-rich state.
March 7, 2013, 12:16 am TWN
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.
Ideological allies across the region lined up to salute Chavez, with Cuba leading the plaudits to a man hailed as a “true son” to the communist nation's retired 86-year-old revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.
Cuban officials declared three days of national mourning in honor of the country's closest regional ally and main economic benefactor.
In a statement broadcast on state television, the Cuban government said Chavez had “stood by Fidel like a true son” during his presidency.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff described Chavez as a “great Latin American.”
“We recognize a great leader, an irreparable loss and above all a friend of Brazil, a friend of the Brazilian people,” Rousseff said.
Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales — whose political priorities and style of leadership have drawn deeply from Chavez — said he was “crushed” by his friend's death and would soon travel to Venezuela.
“We are in pain,” Morales added.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, another close ally, said Chavez's death was an “irreparable loss” for Latin America. Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, heavily reliant on aid from oil-rich Venezuela, vowed to continue “waging the battles” of Chavez.
In Argentina, Vice President Amado Boudou said on Twitter that “all of Latin America” was in mourning.