U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement on the death of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez:
"According to news reports, Chavez has passed after a long battle against cancer. For over a decade Chavez had used corruption, intimidation, manipulation, and brutal tactics to rule over the Venezuelan people. Chavez misruled Venezuela with an iron grip on the government, economy, and the courts as he routinely bullied the media and the opposition to deny the people of Venezuela their basic freedoms. Today, his death marks the end of this tyrannical rule but the road to democracy for the Venezuelan people is still very much uncertain.
Chavez not only led Venezuela into a spiraling economic downturn, but also deepened ties with fellow despots throughout the world that led to fear and instability in the Western Hemisphere. His ever growing cooperation with fellow state sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Syria, and Cuba, threatened U.S. interests in the region and around the globe. By providing aid and financial assistance to these rogue regimes, Chavez gave many human rights violators an economic lifeline in the form of oil subsidies to continue their tyrannical rule over their people.
The Venezuela people now have an opportunity to emerge from this oppressive regime and regain their democracy and human rights. However, this can only be done through a true democratic process with free, fair, and transparent elections. I am hopeful that democracy will rise from the ashes of the Chavez regime and again become a part of a new Venezuela. Now it is up to the Venezuelan people to redefine and rebuild their nation as a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous state free of the clutches of Chavez and his disastrous social and economic policies."