How to distil reaction to the death of Hugo Chavez

Tease the day: Newspapers do what they can to assess the legacy of the enigmatic Venezuelan

Jorge Silva/Reuters

Yesterday, when Hugo Chavez died, the reaction was immediate, and it was hateful. Ezra Levant, the Canadian commentator never known for holding back, tweeted that Chavez should burn in hell. I mentioned this to someone, and they responded: “He needs Ezra’s help?” Such were the first moments of visceral response. Of course, news spread of tears—and cheers—in the streets of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. Eventually, measured responses followed from Canada’s official circles. First, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar tweeted his condolences to Chavez’s family and the people of Venezuela. Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed with a similar message of condolence—but also hope for a different direction, urging citizens to “build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

This morning’s papers distil the varied reaction to Chavez’s passing. The Globe and Mail characterized Chavez as a “charismatic strongman“, and warned of the “growing doubt that the polarizing leader’s creation can outlive him.” The National Post, under the headline that Chavez “leaves a mess behind,” noted in its front-page lede that Chavez is one among many left-leaning Latin leaders who have “brought political repression and economic hardship to their people.” The Toronto Star labelled Chavez a “controversial president,” and also played up the uncertainty left in his wake. The Ottawa Citizen headlined Chavez’s “polarizing revolution.”

The Post‘s resident funny man, Steve Murray, said it all in a tweet, smack dab in the middle of the tug-of-war reaction to Chavez’s death: “Going online to determine if Chavez was a hero or a villain is as tricky as finding out if GIRLS is good or not.”

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The National Post fronts Chavez’s death and legacy. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Chavez’s “uncertain legacy.” The Ottawa Citizen leads with Chavez’s “polarizing revolution.” iPolitics fronts the “uncertainty” and “hope” in Venezuela’s oil patch. leads with Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolas Maduro’s ascent to interim president. National Newswatch showcases a Star story about Conservative Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu’s alleged relationship with a staffer.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Anti-tobacco. The feds are introducing legislation that would create an RCMP task force of about 50 officers to combat Canada’s contraband tobacco industry. 2. Holocaust remembrance. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was in Berlin to assume the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a 31-nation body.
3. Sri Lankan migrants. Just under 40 per cent of refugee claims resulting from the arrival of the MV Sun Sea had been accepted, as of last month—65 of the 163 cases so far adjudicated. 4. Gambling. Police arrested 18 people allegedly involved in one of Canada’s largest gambling ring yesterday, and also seized $1.6 million in cash and two handguns.

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