Swedish reactions to Chavez' death
Following the death of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt says that he is now looking to see change in Venezuela, writing on Twitter that the country has to get a "clear and democratic administration."
Western leaders often criticised the late president of Venezuela for being authoritarian. But the former US president, Jimmy Carter, who runs an election monitoring organisation, said in September 2012 that "of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."
Carl Bildt told Swedish Radio Wednesday that Chavez will be remembered as a strong, charismatic and controversial leader. Bildt said the late president's more "populist politics" took the country into a "very difficult situation", and that it will be a "long time" before this can be mended. Bildt added that it is the Venezuelan economy, above all, that is in a serious decline, despite high oil prices.
Around half a percent of Sweden's population has a Latin American background. In the 1970s and 1980s many fled the military dictatorship in Chile and over 45,000 Swedes have a Chilean background.
One of those is Francisco Contreras, chair of Sweden's Latin America solidarity group. He told Swedish Radio that Chavez did a lot to fight poverty, and that he will be seen as one of the leaders who united Latin America and helped end the era of domination by the US.
But Martin Ängeby from the Swedish International Liberal Centre told Swedish Radio that Chavez abused the country's political institutions and contributed to an extreme political polarisation, both inside Venezuela and in the region. Engerby adds, however, that Chavez' political movement did make a change by helping the poor of Venezuela to become part of the political process.
Sweden's ties to Venezuela are significant, with about four billion SEK worth of goods imported from there every year – mostly crude oil. In return Sweden sends about SEK one billion worth of exports there annually, mostly technical products from companies like Ericsson and Electrolux.
But, to put it in context, the trade between Sweden and South Africa is worth over ten times as much.