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President and Tánaiste express sadness at death of Hugo Chavez

Reaction from world leaders to the death of the Venezuelan president yesterday has been mixed.

Candles, placed by mourner demonstrators, burn in front of an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez outside the Venezuela's embassy in La Paz, Bolivia.
Candles, placed by mourner demonstrators, burn in front of an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez outside the Venezuela's embassy in La Paz, Bolivia.
Image: Juan Karita/Associated Press

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has led tributes to the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who died yesterday following a two-year battle with cancer.

The 58-year-old passed yesterday, ending 14 years of his rule with an outpouring of grief on the streets of Caracas as seven days of national mourning for the leftist leader were declared in the country.

Higgins said that he was “very sorry” to hear of the death of the divisive and larger-than-life president following his long illness, praising some of his achievements in office.

“President Chavez achieved a great deal during his term in office, particularly in the area of social development and poverty reduction,” Higgins said.

“I extend my sincere condolences to the family of President Chavez on their great loss. My thoughts and best wishes are also with the people of Venezuela as they come to terms with this sad news.”

Higgins’ former Labour Party colleague and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also issued a statement early this morning saying that he learned with “sadness” of the death of Chavez.

Gilmore described Chavez as “an important figure on the international stage, as well as in his own country, and I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family and to the people of Venezuela on his passing.”

From the opposition benches, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams expressed his sadness at the death of the long-time president saying that he had worked “tirelessly” to improve the lives of Venezuelan citizens.

“He dedicated himself to building a new and radical society in Venezuela,” Adams said.

“His progressive social and economic changes took millions out of poverty. He extended free health care and education for all citizens and his re-election last year with a huge majority was testimony to his vision.”

Adams said that the “energetic and enthusiastic leader” will be “greatly missed.”

International reaction

Internationally reaction was divided between those who praised the work of Chavez to those who merely noted his death and a “challenging” time for Venezuela as President Barack Obama put it.

“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 short statement last night.

The secretary general of the United Nations, Bank Ki-moon said: “President Chavez spoke to the challenges and aspirations of the most vulnerable Venezuelans.”

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “saddened” by the death of Chavez who he said had left a “lasting impression” on the people of the Latin American nations.

Some of Chavez’s political allies in the region paid tribute to the late leader. Cuban officials declared three days of national mourning in honour 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” and a “friend of all Brazilian people”.

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 with his Ecuadoran counterpart, Rafael Correa saying that Chavez’s death was an “irreparable loss” for Latin America.

More: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died

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Hugh O'Connell

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