But Friday, the day the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, brought him some welcome news: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro bestowed on Putin the Hugo Chávez Prize for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples. Putin can put it on his mantel beside China's Confucius Peace Prize, which he won in 2011.
Maduro, whose South American nation has been reeling amid a massive economic crisis, announced the prize during the unveiling of a statue (designed by a Russian artist) of his deceased predecessor, Chávez, in the latter's home town of Sabaneta.
Referencing Putin, Maduro said the prize should be given to “a leader that I believe is the most outstanding there is in the world today, a fighter for peace, for balance, and a builder of a pluripolar, multicentric world.”
The Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his brokerage of peace with his country's FARC rebels, comes with a roughly $1 million award. The Chávez award doesn't come with any cash, but rather with a smaller version of the Chávez statue. Venezuela's government is essentially broke, and imports have dried up, leaving food and medicine stocks sparse. Massive protests have filled Venezuelan streets, with demonstrators calling for elections, while there have been widespread reports of looting, as well as hunger.
Maduro didn't directly mention the Nobel, nor his Colombian counterpart, though he did seem to imply that his new prize could be awarded to a FARC leader in the near future. Venezuela and the FARC, a leftist guerrilla group formally known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, share an affinity for Marxism; during the Chávez years, FARC rebels operated openly in Venezuela. Many had expected the Nobel to be given jointly to Santos and Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez, the FARC's commander in chief.
“We'll have to award the peace in Colombia if it comes together,” Maduro said. In a referendum earlier this month, Colombians narrowly rejected a hard-fought peace deal between their government and the rebels, threatening to drag the nation back into war. So far, it appears as if the rebels have remained committed to peace, albeit warily.
When Putin received the Confucius Peace Prize in 2011, its committee of judges praised his conduct in fighting insurgents in Russia's Chechnya region in 1999. Human rights organizations found widespread evidence that Russian and pro-Russian security forces carried out rape, torture and extrajudicial killings.
“His iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot, and he was regarded to be capable of bringing safety and stability to Russia,” read an English version of the committee’s statement. “He became the antiterrorist No. 1 and the national hero.”
That prize was founded by a small group of self-proclaimed “patriotic scholars” and served as a rebuttal of sorts to the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to Chinese dissident writer and activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010. The Confucius Peace Prize, like the Chávez, comes with a statuette, and, in some circles, presumably, bragging rights.