Russia will respect Venezuelan people's choice in presidential elections - Lavrov

Russia is willing to build relations with any leader of Venezuela to be elected by the people in this country and hopes that other countries will not interfere in political processes there, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We will respect the Venezuelan people's choice and expect that all those building relations with Venezuela will support it and that no attempts will be made to influence this choice," Lavrov said in an analytical program on Rossiya-1 television on Saturday.

"We wish the Venezuelan people to make a choice meeting their aspirations and interests of strengthening our strategic partnership," he said.

Hugo Chavez, who has led Venezuela in the past 14 years, died at 58 on Tuesday. Vice President Nicolas Maduro has been endorsed as acting president.

Lavrov described Chavez as "a historic figure."

"He was calm and reasonable, a very delicate policymaker, profoundly erudite and knowing poetry, not only Latin American but also Russian. I do think that this was a historic figure," he said.

"According to our estimates - and blitz public opinion polls conducted in Venezuela confirm this - more than 60 percent of the people favor the continuation of the policy started by Chavez," he said.

"We presume that Chavez's policy was broadly supported in Latin America as well," Lavrov said. He also suggested that Russian-Venezuelan relations and Russia's ties with other Latin American countries will be strengthening due to the groundwork laid by Chavez, he said.

Russia and Venezuela are bound by economic relations, Lavrov said. "Long-term investments in the form of military-technological cooperation or economic, mining, energy and other projects strengthen relations between states. This is correct not only in relation to Russian-Venezuelan partnership but also that between any countries," he said.

"We regularly seek to make sure that economy should be in the foundation of all our relations with the outer world. Certainly, this will affect our relations with Venezuela to some extent," he said.

Talking about the political situation in Venezuela following Chavez's death, Lavrov said, "As for domestic political competition, it is perhaps logical for a situation before any elections that the political forces will be promoting their programs and priorities and trying to win voters over."

"I have noticed that, among numerous condolences heard in Venezuela and outside it these days, Chavez's rival in the last elections, Henrique Capriles, made, in my view, a very appropriate statement, saying that he mourns this loss and emphasizing that Chavez has never been his enemy but his rival. In my view, this is a respectful attitude toward what is going on now. I expect the political process and election campaign to pass in a similar way," he said.

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