When news broke Tuesday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had died, Twitter exploded. Democratic congressman José E. Serrano, who represents parts of the borough of the Bronx in New York City, eulogized the leftist leader on Twitter:
Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.—
Jose E. Serrano (@RepJoseSerrano) March 05, 2013
The Venezuelan president and the congressman have something of a history together; Chavez worked with Serrano to bring discounted Venezuelan heating oil to low-income residents of the South Bronx and visited the borough in 2005.
Not everybody loves the guy who once called U.S President George W. Bush the “devil” from the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, however, and blowback was swift:
@RepJoseSerrano shameful. You have no idea the harm he inflicted on his own people. Not to mention his support for Iran & other rogue states—
John Schulenburg (@johnschulenburg) March 05, 2013
Nicole Malliotakis (@NMalliotakis) March 05, 2013
You use an AOL account AND love murderous dictators? What the hell is wrong with you? @RepJoseSerrano—
Miké (@ThePantau) March 05, 2013
The Republican National Committee responded with a statement (via Business Insider) calling Serrano’s tweet “insulting”:
“It’s simply insulting that a Democrat Congressman would praise the authoritarian ruler Hugo Chavez. Chavez systematically cracked down on the basic freedom and liberties of Venezuelans, nationalized private industries, and befriended anti-American dictators like Castro, Ahmadinejad, and Assad. Americans should stand together with the freedom loving people of Venezuela as they hope for a peaceful transition to a democracy, instead of praising the former dictator.”
Chavez’s tenure as president of Venezuela were marked by socialist reforms and at times virulent anti-U.S. sentiment. He died Tuesday after a drawn-out battle with cancer.