Uruguay salutes democratic
Latin American leaders continued to rally around President Hugo Chavez after he conceded defeat in the referendum on his much-vaunted and far-reaching proposed reforms of Venezuela's Constitution.
President Felipe Calderon of Mexico publicly applauded Chavez' "enormous valor" in so rapidly admitting he'd been beaten.
Calderon congratulated the Venezuelan people for taking part in a democratic exercise and "having done it with responsibility." Calderon was speaking at a press conference marking his first year in power, after winning an election against a leftist contender, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who'd been Chavez' openly preferred candidate.
Relations between Caracas and Mexico City have been rocky in the wake of mutual dislike between Chavez and former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who held office between 2000 and 2006. Fox has continued to criticize Chavez since leaving office.
Calderon is trying to warm up relations with Venezuela, but has declined to call Fox to order for his verbal attacks on Chavez.
Uruguay, arguably the Latin American country with the longest-lasting tradition of pluralistic democracy ... excepting an eight-year military regime in the 1980s ... directed its praise at the Venezuelan people. The government of President Tabare Vazquez ... like Chavez, a self-declared leftist ... "saluted the democratic expression and maturity of the Venezuelan people," said Foreign Minister Reinaldo Gargano.
Outgoing President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina lauded Chavez for recognizing the referendum results without complaint, and all the more so because it was the first time the Venezuelan leader had lost a vote. "Today, it happened to you, Chavez, to lose an election and you have shown yourself to be a great democrat in accepting the results," Kirchner said.
However, members of the Argentine opposition publicly celebrated the defeat of Chavez' constitutional reform plan. Unsurprisingly, support also came from Chavez' friends in what purports to be a leftist movement in the continent. Cuba's Fidel Castro congratulated Chavez for his "dignity" and repeated long-running allegations that Chavez was at risk of being assassinated.
Adding his voice to the clamor of praise, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said Chavez had told him he would persist with his plan to change the Constitution. "We're going to wait for him to make another proposal," Ortega said.
There was no immediate official statement on behalf of President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who presided over the recent Ibero-American Summit at which Chavez ran into a clash with Spain's King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.