The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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State and Nation

March 6, 2013

Chavez widely mourned, but some hope change on way

(Continued)

Venezuela took out tens of billions of dollars in Chinese loans, repayable in oil, which helped fund social programs and consumer goods giveaways that made Chavez popular. His anti-American policies and posturing also pleased some in Beijing, though Chinese leaders were careful not to show public support.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called Chavez "a good friend to the Chinese people."

In the United States, Obama issued a statement reaffirming Washington's support for the "Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government."

"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights," the statement read.

Republican U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida called Chavez's death "an opportunity for democracy in Venezuela."

Some of the estimated 190,000 Venezuelan immigrants living in the United States — about half of them in Florida — turned out cheering and waving their country's flag and expressed hope Tuesday that change would come to their homeland.

"We are not celebrating death," Ana San Jorge, 37, said amid a jubilant crowd in the Miami suburb of Doral. "We are celebrating the opening of a new door, of hope and change."

Several U.S. allies offered praise for Chavez, though some, like France's Socialist President Francois Hollande, noted that "not everyone shared" his political views.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement that Chavez's death was "a heavy blow," but also said Venezuela would move on to "new times." Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent a telegram saying that with the death of Chavez "one of the most influential figures in Venezuela's contemporary history has disappeared."

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