MEMBERS of the House of Representatives on Tuesday heaped praises on the late Hugo Chavez, hailing him as a great friend of Jamaica, as Venezuelan Ambassador Maria Mendoza Ortega and other diplomats watched from the public gallery at Gordon House.
"Here was a man whose heartbeat pulsated for uplifting the poor," said Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. She said there could hardly have been any better celebration of his life and work than the tributes paid to him and the huge turn out to honour him at his funeral in Caracas on Friday, which she attended with a bipartisan team from Jamaica.
She noted that Chavez's generosity has contributed to a number of projects in Jamaica, including the refurbishing of the National Stadium and Arena; construction of the National Gallery and a multimedia centre at the media training centre at the Edna Manley College; the Montego Bay Sports Complex; and construction of more than 10,000 houses in Portmore, St Catherine
"His legacy will outlive him, and this legacy will continue to influence and inspire many for years to come," she said.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness recalled Chavez's interest in his proposal to construct a school in Jamaica in honour of the Venezuelan hero, Simon Bolivar, who spent time in exile in Jamaica.
"He believed in Bolivarianism and as a result of that it gave him a special attraction to Jamaica... His was a life of great value, a life of great meaning and he has left a legacy that will live on beyond his life," Holness said.
Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips, meanwhile, noted that Jamaica has benefitted to the tune of US$2.4 billion from the PetroCaribe oil arrangement which has supported the Jamaican economy since 2005.
He said that Chavez's commitments were not restricted to the PetroCaribe agreement as "he did much to reduce the regional tensions in the Caribbean", including the Guyana/Venezuela land claims.
Housing Minister Dr Omar Davies noted the level of balance of payment support Jamaica has received from the PetroCaribe agreement since 2005, as well as the benefits to the country's long term development.
"What it reflects was that Hugo Chavez wasn't dealing with a PNP Government as opposed to a JLP Government. His commitment was to help the Third World and to help Jamaica," said Davies, a former finance minister.
Another former finance minister and current Opposition spokesman, Audley Shaw, recalled that Chavez "was not just a friend of Jamaica, but a friend of the entire Caribbean", who rose above political polarisation in the process.
Other speakers included Minister Phillip Paulwell; Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Arnaldo Brown; and Opposition MPs Dr Kenneth Baugh and Olivia 'Babsy' Grange.
The Senate is expected to pay similar tributes to Chavez when it meets on Friday.