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Former rebels look to the life of their commander to find hope for their country’s future.

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Chavez on death of Gaddafi, a "martyr"

Hugo Chavez and the former Libyan leader were close friends
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Chavez presented Gaddafi with the Order of the Liberator, Venezuela's highest honor, in 2009. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

CARACAS, Venezuela — One of Muammar al Gaddafi’s few friends on the international stage has said that the former Libyan leader will be remembered “as a great fighter, a revolutionary and martyr.”

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez described the killing of Gaddafi as a “murder,” before slamming the U.S. and its allies. “The story in Libya is just beginning,” Chávez said. “The Yankee empire cannot master the world. The worst thing is that in their efforts to dominate the world, the empire and its allies are burning.”

Chavez arrived back in Venezuela today after medical tests in Cuba, which he claims have given him the all clear. “I am free of illness,” the president confidently declared. “Chavez is back!”

That Chavez of old will be looking forward to presidential elections next October and his rhetoric will no doubt return to its previous magnificence. Just today, on a pilgrimage to a Catholic shrine, Chavez said: “It would be easier for a donkey to pass through the eye of a needle than for the opposition to win the elections.”

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Chavez loses a friend in Gaddafi

Chavez had written encouragement to the Libyan leader, telling him, "Win or die."
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Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Chavez, his friend to the end. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was confirmed killed on Thursday, didn't have a lot of friends.

He was never really welcomed in the circle of Arab leaders, who considered him more of an African than one of them. When Gaddafi turned south, he found few supporters among African leaders. 

All that makes Gaddafi's friendship with Hugo Chavez even more particular. Venezuela's president has been a staunch ally of Gaddafi from the beginning. 

Chavez has been battling cancer, flying to Cuba regularly for medical care. He returned on Thursday from Havana after another round of treatment, but didn't have anything immediately to say about his friend's death.

But as the rebellion in Libya began, Chavez was out front, condemning the uprising.

As other leaders slowly began to recognize the transitional government, Chavez made a point of declaring that he would not recognize the rebels. In March, Chavez offered to try to broker a truce between the two sides. The rebels turned him down.

When Tripoli fell, Chavez released yet another statement upbraiding the rebellion as "imperial madness." But there would be more.

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