Antipathy in the US Congress towards the leftist champion Chavez, who died after a long battle with cancer, meanwhile bubbled up quickly, with lawmakers branding him a tyrant and one top Republican bluntly saying "good riddance."
"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government," Obama said.
Venezuelans shocked by Chavez' death (Photos: Reuters)
"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights," he said in a short written statement.
While Obama's statement was measured, as would be expected of a head of state, reactions to Chavez's death in Congress were more vituperative.
Mourning the leader
"For over a decade Chavez had used corruption, intimidation, manipulation, and brutal tactics
to rule over the Venezuelan people," said veteran Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Chavez misruled Venezuela with an iron grip on the government, economy, and the courts as he routinely bullied the media and the opposition to deny the people of Venezuela their basic freedoms.
"Today, his death marks the end of this tyrannical rule but the road to democracy for the Venezuelan people is still very much uncertain."
Vigil in Caracas
Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Chavez had ruled with an "iron hand" and left a "political void."
"With free and fair elections, Venezuela can begin to restore its once robust democracy and ensure respect for the human, political and civil rights of its people," he said.