Former President Jimmy Carter on Tuesday evening offered some fond memories of the recently departed socialist Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Carter recalled his first meeting with Chavez in 1998 — during the Venezuelan leader’s campaign for president — and noted that The Carter Center observed the country’s elections in 2000, and returned to encourage dialogue during the country’s tumultuous internal political conflict between 2002 and 2004.
“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 said in a statement.
Carter noted that while he did not always agree with Chavez‘s methods, he “never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen,” and said that the former Venezuelan president “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.”
“Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country’s economic and political life,” he added.
The former president concluded that he hopes Venezuelans will “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.”
Chavez died Tuesday of complications from cancer in his pelvic region. He was 58.