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Obama, Lawmakers React to Death of Hugo Chavez

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and several members of Congress have expressed their feelings about the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the age of 58.

President Obama released a statement saying, “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.”

New York Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano tweeted, “Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.”

Arkansas Republican Rep. Tom Cotton said,  “After the welcome news of Hugo Chavez’s death, I hope that the oppressed people of Venezuela will be able to live in freedom, not under miserable tyranny. I look forward to working in the House to promote a free, democratic, and pro-American government in Venezuela.”

Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Permanent Select committee on Intelligence, said, “Hugo Chavez was a destabilizing force in Latin America, and an obstacle to progress in the region. I hope his death provides an opportunity for a new chapter in US-Venezuelan relations.”

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Chavez’s death “an opportunity for the Venezuelan people to chart a new course and create a more hopeful future.”

California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, called Chavez “a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear.”  

Royce said, “Good riddance to this dictator. Venezuela once had a strong democratic tradition and was close to the United States.  Chavez’s death sets the stage for fresh elections.  While not guaranteed, closer U.S. relations with his key country in our hemisphere are now possible.”

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