From the website of the Russian Orthodox Church:
His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, sent the following message of condolences over the death of President Hugo Chavez to interim president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro:
…The deceased was one of the most striking political leaders of today, a sincere patriot of his country who exerted much effort to improve the living conditions of the Venezuelan people. Mr. Chavez was broadly renowned in the world community for his independent and principled stand.
I remember with warmth my meeting with the late President during my visit to Venezuela in October 2008. During our dialogue, my interlocutor proved to be a strong-will statesman who attached a great importance to the development of spiritual relations between nations…
Clearly, this is more than a formal diplomatic expression of condolence – it is an endorsement of a man who ought to have been at odds with with the traditionalist authoritarianism that Kirill embodies in Russia. However, it is just one example of Chávez’s “contradictory legacy”, explored thoughtfully by Bill Weinberg here. As Bill notes:
Most disturbing was Chávez’s growing coziness with dictators—his uncritical embrace of Bashar Assad (even through the worst of the Syria butchery), Moammar Qaddafi (even at a time when the Libyan strongman was also being groomed by Washington as a potential proxy), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Alexander Lukashenko. His eager betrayal of the Tibetans to win the good graces of Beijing was also unseemly —he called their freedom movement an example of the US “empire” “going against China.” Of course he shared Ahmadinejad’s habit of voicing the most vulgar 9-11 conspiracy theory.
Lukashenko (who also enjoys Kirill’s uncritical endorsement, and returns praise in kind) has also issued a statement, full of gushing prose of a kind which he doubtless hopes will one day mark his own passing:
Without trying to conceal our tears, we grieve along with Venezuelan people crying over the tragic abrupt death of Hugo Chavez, one of the greatest statesman and leaders of our time, the great hero, the passionate patriot and the fighter for independence, the outstanding politician, the thinker and speaker, the exceptional strong man who loved life and who dedicated his life to the service of his country.
Today we lost a close relative and a best friend, who passionately loved Belarus and always was there for us when we needed help… The name of President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez is engraved in the book of our history with the golden letters and he and his deeds now became part of eternity…
Interfax adds the detail that “the late Venezuelan president… offered his assistance in constructing a Russian Orthodox church”; it should be recalled that Time a few years ago described the ROC as Putin’s “main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument”.
UPDATE: Kirill and Lukashenko have both been trumped; according to the AP:
In his condolences… Ahmadinejad… said he has “no doubt Chavez will return to Earth together with Jesus and the perfect” Imam Mahdi… and that he’ll help the two “establish peace, justice and kindness” in the world.
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