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Hugo Chavez widely mourned, but some hope change on way


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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.

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"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."

Wearing caps and T-shirts in the Venezuelan colors of yellow, blue and red, many expressed cautious optimism and concern.

"Although we might all be united here celebrating today, we don’t know what the future holds," said Francisco Gamez, 18, at El Arepazo, a popular Venezuelan restaurant in Doral.

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."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague sent his condolences, as did Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper — although the latter pointedly offered hopes for a "a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez declared three days of mourning nationwide. She and President Jose Mujica of neighboring Uruguay prepared to travel to Venezuela for the funeral.

In Nicaragua, a nation that broadly benefited from Venezuelan cut-rate oil, Rosario Murillo, the wife and spokeswoman of President Daniel Ortega, said Chavez is "one of the dead who never die."


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"We are all Chavez," she said in televised comments.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter released a statement saying Chavez "expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized."

"Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen," Carter wrote.

A wistful Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador and another of Chavez’s closest allies, predicted Chavez would have a lasting influence. "We have lost a revolutionary, but millions of us remain inspired."

His influence extended beyond Latin America. Nabil Shaath, an adviser to the Palestinian president, called Chavez "a loyal friend who passionately defended our right to freedom and self-determination." In the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, civil servant Nguyen Van Ngoc praised Chavez as "a very strong character."

"The United States tried to exert influence in Latin America, but it couldn’t do anything to countries like Venezuela and Cuba," he said.

China’s Internet, its freest court of public opinion, crackled with praise for Chavez for standing up to the U.S. and for his socialist policies.

"Chavez and the ‘21st century socialism’ he advocated was a big bright spot after drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe sunk the world socialist movement in a low ebb, and he was known as an ‘anti-American standard-bearer," Zhu Jidong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ World Socialism Research Center wrote on his feed on Sina Corporation’s Twitter-like microblog service. "Mourn this great fighter."

There was no shortage of emotional farewells to a socialist hero who some feel rivaled the revolutionaries of the 1960s.

Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, whose ode to revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara became famous, used the song’s title words to bid farewell to Chavez on his blog.

"Hasta siempre, comandante," he wrote, Spanish for "Farewell forever, commander."

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