OTTAWA - Venezuela has sent a formal protest to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "insensitive" remarks on the death of President Hugo Chavez.

Harper issued a statement that offered "condolences to the people of Venezuela," but not the family of the flamboyant 58-year-old leftist leader, who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

A statement from a senior Venezuelan government official says a "card of protest" was sent to Ottawa after Harper expressed what he called insensitivity at a time when their country is grieving.

A wordy note from the vice-minister for North America, Claudia Salerno, said Caracas was protesting "in a blunt and categorical way, the statements issued the 5 of March 2013 by the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, as they constitute 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."

Harper said in his short statement on Tuesday that he hopes the death of Chavez brings a more promising future for the Venezuelan people.

"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 said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Harper also said that he looked 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 has in the past pointedly challenged the world view of the influential Venezuelan leader, notably in a lengthy one-on-one interview with the Postmedia news service nearly four years ago before he was about to meet Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.

Harper had said Chavez was emblematic of the leftist leaders in the Western Hemisphere who were "opposed to basically sound economic policies, want to go back to Cold War socialism ... want to turn back the clock on the democratic progress that's been made in the hemisphere."

The Venezuelan government fired back on Wednesday saying that it "has freely and democratically chosen its Socialist destiny, is obliged to remind the representative of the Canadian government, that it has been thanks to this Bolivarian Revolution that our future as an independent and sovereign country appears more radiant and promising than ever, by virtue of the legacy of our historic leader, the Commander President Hugo Chavez Frias."

The statement from Caracas affirmed a commitment to "direct itself freely and with sovereignty towards Bolivarian Socialism and recognizes it as the way toward a future of well-being, that will secure the greatest amount of happiness for everyone."

Chavez was a vocal opponent of the free market economics of Canada and the United States.

He led a leftist revival across Latin America that posed a direct challenge to U.S. influence in the region.

While Chavez introduced social programs that helped feed and house his people during his 14 years in power, his economy has sputtered.

Though Venezuela is an oil rich country, it lacks the capital to maximize its oil output and has been wracked by inflation.

Hundreds of thousands of tearful supporters carried their dead president's coffin through streets of Caracas on Wednesday in an epic farewell to their iconic president known simply as "our commander."

One of Chavez's closest socialist allies, Bolivian President Evo Morales, choked back tears and declared: "Chavez is more alive than ever."

Harper's remarks echoed those of the Obama administration in Washington.

The White House said in a statement that Washington supported the "Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government."

"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," the statement read.

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    In this undated photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez, right, sits with his brother Adam in Barinas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this undated photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez is seen in a family photo in Barinas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that President Hugo Chavez has died at age 58 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer. During more than 14 years in office, Chavez routinely challenged the status quo at home and internationally. He polarized Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this March 1971 photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez poses for a photo prior to his admission to the military academy in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez, Elena Frias, Hugo de los Reyes Chavez

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  • Hugo Chavez

    In this undated photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez, right, sings folkloric Venezuelan music during an event at the military academy in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez, top left, poses with fellow members of the failed coup as they serve time in Yare II jail near Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this undated photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Lieutenant Hugo Chavez poses for a photo at the Military Academy in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this March 1972 photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez, bottom row, right, poses with his baseball teammates during the internal games at the Military Academy in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this April 1971 photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, receives a dagger during his ceremony to enter the military academy in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    In this undated photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Hugo Chavez poses as he serves time in the Yare II prison near Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)

  • Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this Feb. 4, 1992 file photo, paratroop commander Hugo Chavez talks to reporters at the Defense Ministry after he surrendered to the troops loyal to the government of Carlos Andres Perez in Caracas, Venezuela. Chavaz surrendered in the western city of Valencia and was transported to Caracas, where he called his followers to give up their arms. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Ali Gomez, File)

  • Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

    FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2006 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wave to the press after inaugurating an oil drill in San Tome, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

  • Muammar Gaddafi, Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2009 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, shows Libya's President Moammar Gadhafi a replica of Venezuelan Independence hero Simon Bolivar's sword after giving it as a gift to Gadhafi in Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela. Now that Gadhafi has been ousted and is in hiding, Chavez is one of the few heads of state still openly supporting him. Chavez said Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 he thinks Gadhafi will not flee Libya. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, file)

  • US President George W. Bush (behind) wal

    US President George W. Bush (behind) walks past Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez after Bush spoke at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Special Summit of The Americas at the Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Mexico 12 January 2004. More than 30 leaders from American nations gathered Monday in the Mexican city of Monterrey for a two-day summit expected to be marked by divergences between US President George W. Bush and counterparts from Latin America. AFP PHOTO/Luke FRAZZA (Photo credit should read LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2000 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, front right, walks with Iraqi's President Saddam Hussein at Saddam airport in Baghdad, Iraq. Chavez, the first national leader to visit Iraq since the Gulf War in 1991, was leaving the country after a short visit as part of a tour of OPEC countries. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/INA, Pool, File)

  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right, directs Zimbabwean

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  • Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (C) em

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  • Hugo Chavez dies

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  • Hugo Chavez dies

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  • FILE - In this April 18, 2009 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, hands President Barack Obama the book titled "The Open Veins of Latin America" by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano at a UNASUR countries meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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    FILE - In this file photo released on Feb. 15, 2013 by Miraflores Presidential Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, poses for a photo with his daughters, Maria Gabriela, left, and Rosa Virginia at an unknown location in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Miraflores Presidential Press Office, File)

  • Hugo Chavez dies

    File photo dated 15/5/2006 of President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez who has died, according to Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

  • Hugo Chavez dies

    File photo dated 14/5/2006 of President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez addressing crowds of supporters at the Camden Centre, London. Chavez has died, according to Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

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    FILE - In this June 2, 2001 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds up a small copy of his nation's constitution as he visits a Citgo Petroleum Corp refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Corpus Christi Caller-Times, George Tuley, File)

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    FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2006 file photo, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez greet people during the inauguration ceremony of an oil drill in Campo Morichal, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

  • Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2001 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures before a painting of Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar at an event at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch, File)

  • Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this May 14, 2004 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gives a press conference at the presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch, File)

  • Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this June 2, 2011 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, holds a crutch as he welcomes Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, not in picture, at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

  • FILE - In this April 14, 2002 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures to supporters as he arrives to Miraflores presidential palace after being freed by his military captors two days after the military announced he had resigned, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)

  • FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2005 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wears a Mexican sombrero as he sings a Mexican ranchera song at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

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    FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2012 file photo, backdropped by a portrait of independence hero Simon Bolivar, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez talks during a press conference at the Miraflores palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

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    FILE - In this Feb. 4, 1999 file photo, Venezuela's newly sworn in President Hugo Chavez salutes the crowd next to his wife Marisabel Chavez during a military parade commemorating the seventh anniversary of his failed 1992 coup in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Douglas Engle, File)

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    FILE - In this July 24, 2000 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds Simon Bolivar's sword at an event celebrating the independence hero's 114th birthday in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File)

  • Hugo Chavez

    FILE - In this Feb. 5, 1992 file photo, paratroop commander Hugo Chavez, center, is escorted by military intelligence officers after being arrested for trying to overthrow Venezuela's government in a coup. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 4, 1997 file photo, Hugo Chavez, a retired army lieutenant colonel who led a coup attempt in 1992, waves to people gathered in Caracas Square to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the failed coup in Caracas, Venezuela. The coup attempt sent shock waves through Latin America, since oil-rich Venezuela is one of the region's oldest democracies and for years was considered a model for Third World economic development. The girl is unidentified. Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 that Chavez has died. Chavez, 58, was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. (AP Photo/Jose Caruci, File)

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  • FILE - In this July 3, 2012 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, greets Major General Wilmer Barrientos after he was promoted at a military ceremony in Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas, Venezuela. A former paratrooper, Chavez enjoys explicit support from two of the country's top military leaders, Defense Minister Adm. Diego Molero and chief strategic operational officer, top army Gen. Wilmer Barrientos. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

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  • FILE - In this June 24, 2012 file photo, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, left, President Hugo Chavez, center, and Defense Minister Gen. Henry Rangel attend a military parade at the military academy in Fuerte Tiuna, Caracas, Venezuela. With Chavez now knocked low by a stubborn cancer and the future of his government in question, the armed forces may not be so prepared to hold the country together this time. A former military officer and several experts said the president's five-week absence has created a gaping hole at the top of the chain of command, one that the governing duo of Vice President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has proven incapable of filling. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

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  • FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - In this July 24, 2012 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds up a pair of pistols that he says belonged to Venezuela's independence hero Simon Bolivar during a ceremony marking 229th anniversary of Bolivar's birth at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Bolivar is the namesake of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution movement, and his government is putting the finishing touches on a new mausoleum to house Bolivar's remains. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) approaches to embrace Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota during an official visit to Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) speaks next to Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota during an official visit at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota's official visit at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) speaks next to Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota during an official visit to Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (C) speaks during Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota's official visit at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VENEZUELA-BRAZIL-CHAVEZ-PATRIOTA

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguilar Patriota's official visit at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, on November 1, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)