UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (UPI) -- Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is remembered as a charismatic leader who worked for regional unity and social security, the U.N. General Assembly said.
Chavez died March 5 after a long bout with cancer. Social programs helped earn Chavez a reputation as a hero for the Venezuela's poor. His efforts at nationalization, however, brought opposition from middle and upper classes.
U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon lauded Chavez for his contribution to peace talks between Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, known as FARC.
"As the process of regional integration progresses, the key role that President Chavez has had in promoting the unity of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean will be present in everyone's minds," Ban said in a statement to the General Assembly.
General Assembly statements echoed those from European leaders who recognized work by Chavez on social reforms.
Former Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic said Chavez was able to lower the national poverty rate from 70 percent to 20 percent during his tenure.
Elections to replace Chavez are scheduled for April. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition leader Henrique Capriles are the top contenders.