House Dem Heaps Praise on Hugo Chavez: ‘He Was Committed to Empowering the Powerless’

US Representative Jose Serrano (C), Democrat of New York, speaks alongside Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (R) of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican activists, urging Congress to allow an end to the island’s territorial status, during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 15, 2013. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has unsurprisingly elicited strong opinions from many Americans, including several members of Congress who see his death as an opportunity for Venezuela to rise above his regime.

However, shortly after Chavez’s death was confirmed, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) took to Twitter to pay his respects to the controversial and notorious leader.

“Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President,” he wrote.

According to the Washington Post, Serrano represents one of the most Democratic and largely Hispanic districts in the United States, in New York City.

“President Chavez was a controversial leader. But at his core he was a man who came from very little and used his unique talents and gifts to try to lift up the people and the communities that reflected his impoverished roots,” Serrano wrote in an additional statement. “He believed that the government of the country should be used to empower the masses, not the few. He understood democracy and basic human desires for a dignified life. His legacy in his nation, and in the hemisphere, will be assured as the people he inspired continue to strive for a better life for the poor and downtrodden.”

Serrano has also reportedly praised ruthless Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and previously struck a deal on home heating oil with Chavez himself.

The Democratic congressman is also the same lawmaker who proposed ending presidential term limits so that America’s most popular leaders can be re-elected. Many have assumed the proposal was a bid to keep Obama in office.

Obama on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the United States reaffirms its support for the “Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.”

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights,” according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the news of Chavez’s death was reportedly met with cheers from Venezuelans in South Florida who have actually lived under his reign and fled to the United States.

“I never wish anyone death,” Carlon Marino, 63, told the Miami Herald. “[B]ut in this case I did. He poisoned the Caribbean.”

“There’s so much happiness,” Venezuelan Oscar Pérez said. “We’ve been waiting 14 years. I’ve seen how he ruined the country. It’s anarchy.”

Pérez moved to Weston, Fla. from Caracas the same year Chavez came to power.

UPDATE: Former President Jimmy Carter has weighed in on Chavez’s death via a statement:

We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.