In Washington, politicians reacted almost as quickly as the South Florida crowd. "Hugo Chavez ruled Venezuela with an iron hand and his passing has left a political void that we hope will be filled peacefully and through a constitutional and democratic process, grounded in the Venezuelan constitution and adhering to the Inter-American Democratic Charter," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Menendez called for "free and fair elections" so that "Venezuela can begin to restore its once robust democracy and ensure respect for the human, political and civil rights of its people."
The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, was harsher, calling Chavez "a tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear" and adding, "Good riddance to this dictator."
But the news was not red meat to all U.S. politicians.
Former President Jimmy Carter noted that he had gotten to know Chavez while observing elections in Venezuela. "We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized," he said in a statement. "Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chavez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen."
On "Early Start" this morning, Shasta Darlington reports live from Caracas, Venezuela on the future of the country after Chavez.