CARACAS Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday announced the creation of peace prize in honour of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, and said he was awarding it to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The announcement comes on the same day that the Nobel Committee awarded its annual Peace Prize to Juan Manuel Santos, president of neighbouring Colombia, for his role in negotiating a peace agreement with Marxist FARC rebels.
"I've decided to create the Hugo Chavez prize for peace and the sovereignty," Maduro said during a televised broadcast to unveil a statue of Chavez designed by a Russian artist.
"I think President Vladimir Putin deserves this Hugo Chavez award," he said, describing Putin as a "fighter for peace."
Maduro said winners of the prize will receive a miniature replica of the statue.
Venezuela during Chavez's 14-year rule openly challenged Washington's dominance in the region while building up alliances with traditional adversaries of the United States including Russia and China.
Critics of the Ruling Socialist party frequently ridicule its efforts to build Venezuela's presence in international politics, noting the country's unravelling economic system has created runaway inflation and chronic product shortages.
(Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)