The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 6, 2013

Chavez widely mourned, but some hope change on way

— LONDON (AP) — Some cried, some cheered. Many Latin Americans mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, leaders in Europe and Asia sent condolences, and Iran's president predicted great works in the afterlife.

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, focused on "a new chapter" for Venezuela, following 14 years in which Chavez cast himself as a bulwark against U.S. domination.

Chavez, who died Tuesday at age 58, was seen as a hero by some for his socialist programs, his anti-U.S. rhetoric and gifts of cut-rate oil. Others considered him a bully who repressed his opponents.

A teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez's closest allies and most loyal disciples, declared that "Chavez is more alive than ever."

"Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation," Morales said Tuesday in a televised speech. "Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors. Hugo Chavez will always be with us, accompanying us."

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, another left-wing fan of the Latin American strongman, told The Associated Press that Chavez's ability to shrug off American pressure and weather what he described as a U.S.-backed coup attempt had inspired the entire continent to defy Washington.

"The fact that he survived encouraged other Latin American nations to break free and put their own people ahead of corporate interests," Livingstone said in a telephone interview. "Before him, the governments there were just creatures of the White House. Now they are generally pursuing policies that help their own people."

Chavez pulled Venezuela out of America's sphere of influence and embraced Washington's rivals including Cuba, Iran and Russia. Officials in all three countries had effusive praise for the late leader.

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