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Hugo Chavez Remembered as Champion of Caribbean

Hugo-Chavez-PM-Spencer-275x179ST JOHN’S, Antigua – “A huge blow” has been dealt to Latin America and the Caribbean, said Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer in the wake of the death, on Tuesday, of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced that Chavez, 58, lost his two-year battle with cancer.  Maduro was named by the Venezuelan leader as his successor in case of his death.

The head of Venezuela’s Congress will assume the interim presidency, according to the constitution.

An immediate halt was placed on public activities organized by the Venezuelan Embassy here in Antigua.

Spencer said yesterday that he contacted Venezuelan Ambassador to Antigua & Barbuda Carlos Perez Silva, telling the diplomat that the late leader was “a true champion of not only the working class people of Venezuela but of the entire Caribbean.

“Being in his presence and interacting with him was always uplifting and was a positive symbol of great hope for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Spencer said.

“His contributions to the development of Antigua & Barbuda and the Caribbean in general will always be remembered. The Caribbean owes a debt of gratitude to Venezuela for sharing with us a son of the soil, whose imposing physical presence was equaled only by his exceptional intellect and compassion.”

In the past eight years, Antigua & Barbuda and Venezuela have significantly deepened diplomatic relations, becoming parties to a new trade and economic bloc and signing a petroleum pact along with several other regional states.

The two states signed the PetroCaribe initiative in 2005, under which oil and petroleum products are granted by the South American country at a concessionary rate.

That program allowed for the establishment of PDV CAB – a government company, which began the Senior Citizens Utilities Subsidy Program in 2008 and People’s Benefit Program in 2009.

The Senior Citizens Utilities Subsidy Program provides more than 4,600 pensioners with a $100 monthly subsidy for utility bills; while the People’s Benefit Program gives a $215 monthly subsidy to people with disabilities and who are economically disadvantaged.

The future of those programs is now dependent on the results of the general election that must be held to determine who will lead Venezuela, The Daily OBSERVER was informed.

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