Dear Prime Minister Harper,
It is with a profound sense of indignation that I read about your letter sent in the wake of the death of Venezuela´s President, Hugo Chavez.
Canadians would expect their Prime Minister to take the high road in responding to another nation´s grief following the death of their leader. Instead the letter you sent took the low road in not sending condolences to the Chavez family and for calling into question the deceased leader´s dedication to democratic principles following more than a decade of clean elections, unrivalled in the Americas.
Any sitting Canadian prime minister who met an early end could only dream of such massive outpouring of grief that has seen millions of Venezuelans line up for 35 kilometers to get a brief view of Chavez´s body lying in state.
As a Canadian who was born in Venezuela and has returned on various occasions, I have heard from some of Venezuela´s poor about the difference that significant investment in social programs under Chavez has meant in greatly reducing the gap between rich and poor.
The Chavez legacy has not only included a massive redistribution of wealth at home, but also has been key to catalyzing change in much of the rest of Latin America. Regional groupings such as ALBA, UNASUR, and the Bank of the South (to name just three) were all inspired by Chavez´s dedication to pursuing greater integration among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a recently published article in the New York Times, the ex-president of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva, stated: ¨If a public figure dies without leaving behind ideas, their legacy and spirit will vanish also.
But this is not the case with Chavez, a strong dynamic and unforgetable figure whose ideas will be discussed for decades....everywhere people are concerned with social justice, the struggle against poverty and a more just distribution of power in the world¨.
Canada´s attitude towards Venezuela needs to change. I would urge our government to send a strong message of support to Venezuela´s interim president, Nicolas Maduro, with a promise to build positive relations in the future.