Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin a newly-created peace prize, which is named in honor of the Latin American nation’s late leader Hugo Chavez.
“I’ve decided to create the Hugo Chavez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty,” said Maduro during the unveiling ceremony of a statue of Chavez designed by a Russian artist on Friday. “I think President Vladimir Putin deserves this Hugo Chavez award,” he further said, describing the Russian leader as a “fighter for peace.” Maduro added that winners of the annual accolade would receive a miniature replica of the statue.
Elsewhere in his televised speech, the Venezuelan president also said that the prize would be offered to national and international figures “who have excelled in the struggle for peace,” adding that he chose Putin as the first recipient of the award since he has been an ally of Venezuela.
The announcement came on the same day that the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to seal a landmark peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after 52 years of bloodshed.
Chavez, who ruled Venezuela for 14 years before giving in to cancer in March 2013 after a long fight, challenged Washington’s hegemony in the region while seeking and establishing alliances with its traditional adversaries, including Russia and China.
Maduro, however, has faced frequent protests led by his critics since 2014 over major setbacks in the country’s economy. The Venezuelan president blames the problems on an “economic war,” which he says the opposition has waged with a helping hand from the United States in an attempt to bring about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country.