May 30, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that no one should be celebrating the death of Colombian rebel leader Manuel Marulanda.
Chavez referred to the rebel commander's death for the first time during a televised speech, four days after it was confirmed in a video by a senior rebel leader.
"It's lamentable to see some people happy about someone's death. We aren't happy about the death of Manuel Marulanda," Chavez said.
The leftist leader did not elaborate, but said only that he wants better relations with Colombia.
Relations have cooled in recent months due to a Colombian military strike on the rebel group in Ecuadorean territory and Colombia's accusations that Chavez has sought to arm and fund the guerrillas.
The rebels have an ideological affinity for Chavez and freed six hostages to Venezuelan officials earlier this year. But Chavez insists he has not been aiding the rebels.
Marulanda's death of a heart attack in March was confirmed by senior rebel leader Timoleon Jimenez said in a video broadcast on Sunday. The guerrilla commander was believed to be 78.