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Viewpoints: Hugo Chavez's Death

A popular mural of President Hugo Chavez in the city of Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela. (Photo: Filibonaventura, Dreamstime.com)

Argentina – Buenos Aires Herald, March 7: Some cried, some cheered. Many Latin Americans mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, leaders in Europe and Asia sent condolences, and Iran's president predicted great works in the afterlife. A teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chávez's closest allies and most loyal disciples, declared, "Chávez is more alive than ever." … Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Uruguay's José Mujica and Bolivia's Evo Morales were the first world leaders to pay tribute to Chávez's memory as soon as his coffin arrived at the Military Academy in Caracas last night. … The U.N. Security Council observed a minute of silence to honor the memory of Chávez at the start of a meeting yesterday.

Colombia – Colombia Reports, March 7: Marcos Calarca, one of the leading FARC negotiators at the ongoing peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, said on Thursday former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was a key facilitator in the dialogue between the two parties. "Without the presence and impulse of President Chávez we would not be where we are, because he facilitated many things," Calarca said. … Calarca denied accusations that several FARC units used Venezuelan territory to rest, recoup and plan attacks, while claiming the Venezuelan head of state had never actively helped the guerrillas. According to the rebel leader, the FARC's top leadership had ordered all guerrilla commanders to keep their fighting units on the Colombian side of the border.

France – France 24, March 7: Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were united in grief on Thursday over the death of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, whose untiring support for their cause saw him make blistering attacks on Israel. The 58-year-old Venezuelan president, who died on Tuesday after a nearly two-year struggle with cancer, was hugely popular with the Palestinians for his outspoken support for their plight. … The Palestinian love affair with the firebrand Latin American leader began in earnest in January 2009 when he accused Israel of "state terrorism" during its vast 22-day offensive on Gaza and severed all diplomatic ties over its "cruel persecution of the Palestinian people."

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Germany – Deutsche Welle, March 7: Chávez was an existentially important financial ally for quite a few Central American and Caribbean states. … Cuba alone receives 100,000 barrels of cheaper oil per year from Venezuela—enough to cover two-thirds of its needs. It would be "dramatic" for Cuba should Venezuela have to halt oil shipments due to economic problems of its own, says Cuban economist and opposition activist Oscar Espinosa Chepe. … At the same time, 30,000 Cuban doctors and 15,000 teachers and other academics work in Venezuela's health and education sectors in the slums. Venezuela transferred $5 billion to Havana in 2011 alone to fund this friendly gesture—more than foreign bank transfers from Cubans in exile, revenue from tourism and nickel exports combined.

Japan – The Japan Times, March 7: Even as Chavistas said their goodbyes, a sense of foreboding gripped the country as it awaited word on what might come next. … Chávez anointed [Vice President Nicolas] Maduro for that role, and … the military also appears to be showing firm support for Maduro, despite a constitutional mandate that it play no role in politics. … If elected, Maduro would still face a stiff challenge replacing the ultracharismatic Chávez, who parlayed a folksy nationalism and stiff resolve into a virtual one-man government, maintaining support among the poor despite food shortages, rampant crime and inflation topping 20 percent. … The next administration must also control a ballooning public debt that has quadrupled to $102 billion since Chávez took office in 1999, despite Venezuela's booming oil exports

Russia – The Moscow Times, March 6: Signaling an eagerness to maintain cozy ties with Venezuela, President Vladimir Putinon Wednesday called for even stronger relations and praised the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as "a close friend of Russia." … The loss of the flamboyant leader might put Russia's oil contracts in Venezuela in jeopardy, analysts said. Rosneft, the leading foreign oil investor after Chávez renationalized the sector, plans to sink $10 billion into the National Oil Consortium over 10 years. It owns 60 percent of the consortium and is developing the Junin-6 heavy-oil field. "Everything will depend on whether contracts with international companies will be reconsidered," said Maria Shishkina, an oil analyst for Russ-Invest.

Turkey – Turkish Weekly, March 6: Venezuela is an increasingly important source of fuel for China, and the death of Hugo Chávez may impact trade and diplomatic ties between the two countries. China's thirst for natural resources and Venezuela's need for loans has drawn the two countries together in recent years. … China had forged a close relationship with the outspoken socialist leader and is Venezuela's second largest trade partner. China has also become the single biggest source for foreign financing for the Venezuelan government. In turn Venezuela exports half a million barrels of oil a day to China and says it plans to double its oil exports to China by 2015.

United Kingdom – The Guardian, March 7: Regardless of one's position on el Comandante Hugo Chávez, the death of the Venezuelan president opens the door for a policy debate on a critical issue for Venezuela and the world's security: climate change. As the 2015 deadline to create a new global treaty on climate change approaches, the question for the oil-rich country looms: Will Venezuela be a key architect of an ambitious and equitable deal, or will it sabotage progress? … President Chávez oversaw a schizophrenic posture on climate change. He insisted that climate change is an existential crisis caused by capitalism, while simultaneously pushing for the development of the Orinoco's heavy crude. Under Chávez, Venezuela's oil dependency increased, and it now obtains 94 percent of export earnings and more than 50 percent of its federal budget from oil revenues.

United States – CNN, March 5: After convening a constituent assembly in 1999, Venezuela approved a new Bolivarian constitution—named after Chávez's hero, South American independence hero Simón Bolívar. Even before new elections and appointments to fill state positions like the Supreme Court, Chávez and his supporters in the constituent assembly started to subvert their own constitution. Over the course of the next 14 years, the Chávez government undermined judicial independence, used Central Bank reserves for patronage, created partisan militias, established parallel local government structures—including the police forces in Caracas—consolidated control over the media, politicized the electoral commission, and nationalized private companies by caprice. … At the same time, Caracas became one of the murder capitals of the world.

 


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