He called himself El Comandante, and tonight 58 year old Bolivarian revolutionary Hugo Chavez is dead. The Venezuelan President died this afternoon at 4:25 in Venezuela - after battling cancer for 2 years.
It is news in Belize because Venezuela was a venery generous ally of Belize giving tens of millions of dollars for housing, medical, fuel and financial assistance.
This evening Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington told us that "Chavez was a visionary and a regionalist, and the region will mourn his passing." He added that, quote, "Venezuela has a long history of assisting us - we would wish to have that relationship continue and we would hope the passing of Chavez would not affect it adversely."
Presently the Government of Belize benefits greatly from the Petrocaribe initiative, which was re-activated in September of last year. A regime change could spell disaster for this programme in which Government is able to purchase Venezuelan fuel and pay for it over time at very concessionary rates.
Elrington told us that on his last visit to Venezuela, he was told that even if Chavez passes, the Petrocaribe initiative would remain. That is if there is no regime change. The Venezuelan constitution requires that there will be an election in 30 days where Chavez's successor Nicolas Maduro is expected to face off against the leader of the opposition, Henrique Capriles.
Chavez's government has also been very generous to Belize and other Caribbean Countries with the Mission Milagro programme for eye surgeries. Another footnote is that the Venezuelan Government also holds a small percentage of the Superbond.
Chavez was president for 14 years - and had been recently re-elected.