Former President Jimmy Carter hailed deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez on Tuesday as a visionary who left "positive legacies."
"We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life," Carter said of the leftist tyrant who died Tuesday after a multi-year struggle with cancer.
Carter recalled he and his wife first met Chávez when he was campaigning for president in Venezuela, and The Carter Center was invited to observe the election.
"We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized," Carter wrote of the dictator. "Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen."
Carter said Chávez "will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment."
While recognizing that Chávez created "divisions," Carter said the Venezuelan dictator created "new forms of integration" across Latin America and reduced poverty.
After former U.S. president Ronald Reagan passed away in 2004, Carter said he would not issue a formal statement and made neutral comments about Reagan that were nowhere near as warm as his words about the socialist Venezuelan dictator.