The Venezuelan government has slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement on the death of President Hugo Chavez, calling it “insensitive.”

The country has sent “a card of protest” to the Canadian government over Harper’s remarks, issued hours after Chavez’s death was announced late Tuesday afternoon.

Venezuela’s vice-minister for North America, Claudia Salerno, said in a statement that her government is protesting "in a blunt and categorical way,” because Harper expressed “insensitive and impertinent sentiments at a time when the Venezuelan people are grieving and crying over the irreparable physical loss of the Commander President Hugo Chavez Frias."

Chavez, 58, died at a military hospital in Caracas after a battle with cancer, which included trips to Cuba for surgeries and treatments.

In his statement, Harper offered his condolences to “the people of Venezuela,” not Chavez’s family or members of his administration. He also expressed hope that Chavez’s death would lead to a better future for Venezuela.

"Canada looks forward to working with (Chavez’s) successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic,” Harper said.
"At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights."

Harper has criticized Chavez and his leftist economic policies in the past.

With files from The Canadian Press