Local world affairs official reacts to Chavez's death - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Local world affairs official reacts to Chavez's death

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death could have an impact on the United States.

CBS 3 Springfield spoke with a local world affairs official to put it into perspective.

While it is unclear what immediate effects Chavez's death will have on Americans as far as factors like oil prices, local and United States officials are hoping Venezuela's next leader will have more diplomatic ties to the U.S.

"It was obvious that there was a real two class society where you had wealthier people and a very poor, poor class," said former President of the World Affairs Council of Western Mass Ken Furst.

Furst now serves on the national board of the World Affairs Council.

He spent time in Venezuela before Chavez took office in 1999.

"There was a lot of need for getting more people into a reasonable living condition. There was a real group of poor people," he said.

Years later, one of the biggest criticisms of the Venezuelan leader, who has often been characterized as "polarizing", is the fact that even with the country's vast oil wealth, much hasn't changed economically.

"That's been the biggest disappointment," Furst said.

Chavez was known for his harsh criticisms of the United States, and after his death Tuesday, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro expelled a United States embassy official from the country.

But Furst says even though Chavez criticized the U.S., without it, his booming oil industry would have been lost.

"That's been a cash cow for him and important and despite all the rhetoric, he really couldn't do without the United States buying that oil," he said.

Tuesday night President Barack Obama issued a statement, hinting at hopes for a better future relationship with the country saying:

"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government."

Furst says that is something that remains to be seen.

"We're going to have to see how the relationships between Washington and Venezuela evolve."

According to the Associated Press, Maduro will serve as interim president and elections will be called within 30 days.

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