U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) led the United States delegation to the state funeral of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 8.
Meeks, the senior member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, was part of an eclectic gathering at the funeral that included civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Prior to leaving, Meeks said on a conference call that he was proud to be a part of the delegation representing the United States. Chavez died on March 5 following a prolonged bout with cancer.
Meeks extended his condolences to Chavez’s family and the Venezuelan people.
“Venezuela is an important nation to the Western Hemisphere,” he said. “I remain committed to building the relationship between out two nations.”
Chavez was accused of suppressing political opposition and opposition media at home, while supporters said he was a champion of the nation’s poor.
In the United States he worked with a group run by former Congressman Joe Kennedy to supply free home heating oil from his petroleum-rich nation to low-income homes.
He also was a focal point of anti-U.S. sentiment in Latin America.
“The Venezuelans elected him, and I happened to be an observer of some of those elections,” Meeks said during a question-and-answer session.
“I certainly don’t agree with some of his policies, or with some of the statements he has made about the United States,” Meeks said. “And I still think it is important to try and make sure we have good relationships with the government of Venezuela.”