Politicians responded swiftly to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Here's a sampling, with a focus on South Florida officials. Nothing from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Rubio has now issued a statement.
Take a read after the jump.
President Barack Obama:
"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its 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."
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson:
"With the passing of Hugo Chavez, hopefully there will be a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela with real, meaningful democratic reforms."
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:
"The Venezuelan people now have an opportunity to turn the page on one of the darkest periods in its history and embark on a new, albeit difficult, path to restore the rule of law, democratic principles, security and free enterprise system in a nation that deserves so much better than the socialist disaster of the past 14 years. It is my sincere hope that Venezuela's leaders will seek to rebuild our once strong friendship based on shared democratic and free enterprise principles.
"I urge the Administration and the community of democracies in the western hemisphere to keep a watchful eye on the security situation in Venezuela in the coming weeks and months. We must help encourage a leadership transition in accordance with Venezuela's constitution and avoid a vacuum
that is filled by power-hungry and violent forces seeking to maintain the status quo. We should instead support Venezuela's democrats committed to writing new, more hopeful chapters in their country's long and proud history."
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:
"According to news reports, Chavez has passed after a long battle against cancer. For over a decade Chavez had used corruption, intimidation, manipulation, and brutal tactics to rule over the Venezuelan people. Chavez misruled Venezuela with an iron grip on the government, economy, and the courts as he routinely bullied the media and the opposition to deny the people of Venezuela their basic freedoms. Today his death marks the end of this tyrannical rule but the road to democracy for the Venezuelan people is still very much uncertain.
"Chavez not only led Venezuela into a spiraling economic downturn, but also deepened ties with fellow despots throughout the world that led to fear and instability in the Western Hemisphere. His ever growing cooperation with fellow state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Syria, and Cuba, threatened U.S. interests in the region and around the globe. By providing aid and financial assistance to these rogue regimes, Chavez gave many human rights violators an economic lifeline in the form of oil subsidies to continue their tyrannical rule over their people.
"The Venezuela people now have an opportunity to emerge from this oppressive regime and regain their democracy and human rights. However, this can only be done through a true democratic process with free, fair, and transparent elections. I am hopeful that democracy will rise from the ashes of the Chavez regime and again become a part of a new Venezuela. Now it is up to the Venezuelan people to redefine and rebuild their nation as a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous state free of the clutches of Chavez and his disastrous social and economic policies."
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:
"For more than a decade, the Venezuelan people have suffered under the authoritarian rule of Hugo Chavez. He cracked down on freedom of the press and arrested judges and opposition leaders who didn’t agree with him. Additionally, he used petro dollars stolen from the Venezuelan people to extend his influence and fund the sinister agendas of cruel dictators like Castro, Ahmadinejad, and Assad.
"Now, there is hope for the restoration of freedom in Venezuela with truly free and fair elections, renewal of a civil society, and the protection of an independent press. I share the hopes of South Florida's patriotic Venezuelan community that today will mark a new era and the start of a brighter future for their beloved country."
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia:
"Today represents an opportunity for Venezuela to chart a new path, one that includes all voices, civil society and embraces democracy. If a new Venezuelan government embraces these principles then I am confident that its future will be a bright one."