World leaders react to death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Bolivian President Evo Morales pauses during a news conference in La Paz, Bolivia.
(Juan Karita / Associated Press)

News of the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the leftist leader who had been battling cancer, reverberated Tuesday around Latin America and the world.

In La Paz, Bolivia, a teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales said he was devastated, his voice breaking as he spoke, the national news agency reported. He heralded Chavez as a revolutionary and a brother who “gave his whole life for the liberation of the Venezuelan people, of the Latin American people.”

Ecuador, another ally of Venezuela, issued a statement lamenting Chavez’s death, saying the legacy he left would continue strengthening their relations.


Chavez “will continue to light the way for the Latin American revolution with his vision, commitment, courage and love for the people,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Twitter.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said that although Chavez’s passing was foreseeable, “the surprise and the pain is great because we lost a friend,” according to El Observador.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff likewise said she mourned Chavez as a friend, even though her government did not always agree with his. “President Chavez will leave a void in hearts, in history and in Latin America’s struggles,” Rousseff said before seeking a minute of silence.

The recognition for Chavez extended beyond Latin America: Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin called the death a “tragedy” and praised Chavez as “a great politician for his country, Latin America and the world,” the Associated Press reported.

The reaction was more muted in Washington, which had a strained relationship at best with the socialist firebrand. Although some U.S. lawmakers made little secret of their loathing for Chavez, calling him a “tyrant” and a “dictator,” President Obama said the death meant Venezuela was beginning “a new chapter in its history.”

“At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” Obama said in a statement.

Others offered their sympathies, often steering clear of bold statements about a man who was known for making them.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Chavez had “left a lasting impression on the country and more widely,” and offered his condolences to the Chavez family and the Venezuelan people.

French President Francois Hollande said that Chavez had “an undeniable will to fight for justice and development” and that he had made a profound mark on his country.


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Vincent Bevins in Brasilia, Brazil, contributed to this report.