BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA – Latin American leaders added to the chorus of tributes that flowed from heads of state across the globe shortly after the death Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first-ever black president and anti-apartheid icon, who died Thursday at the age of 95.
On Thursday evening, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a three-day mourning period to honor the African freedom fighter, even as his country is in the midst of municipal elections.
Many leaders paid homage to the man who sparked a wave of resistance that would topple a South Africa ruled by the white minority. Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday tweeted: “We deeply regret the death of Nelson Mandela. His legacy remains as our guide for achieving peace.”
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro said of the former South African president on Twitter: “All honor to Nelson Mandela, fighter against injustice and discrimination, man of peace. He will never be forgotten.”
For his part, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe used the death of the African Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to take a swipe at “narco terrorism” – a term he frequently uses to refer to the FARC rebels – tweeting: “Mandela claimed democratic rights. By contrast narco-terrorists destroy democracy.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared three days of mourning in his country to pay tribute to Mandela, saying on Twitter: "In tribute to the giant Nelson Mandela, decided on behalf of all Venezuela, I declare three days of mourning throughout the country Bolivar and Chavez!"
Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles also tweeted: “Death of an example to the world Mandela! Symbol of struggle against apartheid, God rest his soul, and never forget his legacy.”
The three-day mourning period comes as Venezuelans go to the polls to vote in nation-wide municipal elections.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro, who is 87 years old, also used the social media site to mention Mandela’s death, commenting matter-of-factly: “Nelson Mandela has died at age 95. South African President Jacob Zuma announced tonight.”
Also from Cuba, the FARC negotiators shared this in a communique, released to the press: "The Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP shares the grief of the entire world because of the death of Nelson Mandela, Madiba. We extend our sincere condolences to the South African people and the African National Congress, at these moments of great sorrow."
Mandela had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital at the time of his death.