Capital region supporters of Hugo Chavez arrived at the Fernwood Community Association building Sunday evening wearing track suits inspired by the Venezuelan flag and T-shirts brandished with the late president’s face.
While the event honoured the controversial politician’s life, attendees said they were unhappy with the Canadian government’s official response to his death — a response organizer Carlos Flores called “offensive.” They plan to ask Victoria city council to issue a public statement Thursday, expressing condolences to Chavez’s family and the Venezuelan people.
“Mr. Harper doesn’t speak for all Canadians,” said Flores, a member of the Central America Support Committee. “We want our council to be our voice.”
Venezuela sent a formal protest last Wednesday to the federal government after Harper had said Tuesday, the day Chavez lost his two-year battle with cancer at age 58, that he hopes the death will bring a more promising future for the Venezuelan people.
Harper issued a statement that offered “condolences to the people of Venezuela,” but not to Chavez’s family.
Flores said at Sunday’s meeting that Harper’s “disrespectful and unwarranted declaration and attack on Venezuela is not something we endorse or want to let go just like that without a challenge.”
Instead, he wants civic authorities to declare their respect for the national sovereignty of other nations as well as for democracy.
During his 14 years in office, Chavez led a leftist revival across Latin America and was a strong voice against free-market economies. Some called him a hero for championing the poor, while opponents criticized his economic policies and complained that he had muzzled the Venezuelan press.
Gisela Lara Toro, who represents the consulate general of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Vancouver, called him a hero.
“I’m from what you could call the ‘Chavez generation,’ ” she said. “I spent a big part of my adolescence listening to his speeches, to his thoughts, to everything he had to teach us.”
As the daughter of the late Willian Lara, the former president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Lara Toro knew Chavez personally.
“It feels like a great loss of a wonderful human being,” she said.
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