Colombia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that she feels “profound sadness” over the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died earlier Tuesday.
In a press release published on the Colombian foreign ministry’s website, Minister Maria Angela Holguin said she felt “a profound sadness. I believe we worked well with President Chavez. I believe that in these two years [following the inauguration of President Juan Manuel Santos] we had a good relationship in which the relationship with Venezuela advanced quite well.”
“I hope he will find peace as he had a long and painful sickbed,” Holguin added.
Colombia’s foreign minister had been working closely with the Venezuelan government to establish ties that had been broken before 2010 while former President Alvaro Uribe, a fierce political enemy of his Venezuelan counterpart, was still in office.
Despite an improved relationship, the 58-year-old Venezuelan politician was one of the least-liked politicians until his death because of his cordial relationship with Colombian rebel group FARC and erratic relationship with Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, who on several occasions accused his Venezuelan counterpart of supporting the guerrillas with money and weapons.
Chavez’ ideological alignment with the FARC did allow the Venezuelan president to successfully mediate the release of hostages together with one of his few allies in the neighboring country, former Senator Piedad Cordoba, who maintained a friendship with the Venezuelan until his death.
Cordoba expressed her grief on Twitter saying, “A great man has passed away,” adding later, “his memory and his footprint will remain a legacy for democracy and peace.”
Chavez died in Venezuela after a long battle with cancer that included several trips to Cuba for surgery. His cancer did not impede the charismatic leader from successfully running for office in December 2012.
His death was announced by Venezuelan vice-president Nicolas Maduro, who told state television that “at 4:25 in the afternoon today, March 5, commander and President Hugo Chavez Frias died.”
One of Latin America’s most divisive and controversial presidents of recent history, Chavez came into office in1999 and — apart from a three-day coup in 2002 carried out by dissident members of the military, opposition politicians and media — was able to maintain power until his death.
The Venezuelan became best known outside his country because of his fiercely anti-American remarks and political and financial support for leftist movements and governments across the continent.