More than 30 heads of state traveled to Caracas for the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela since 1999 and the architect of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) who passed away on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Upon his arrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “he was a dear friend of all nations worldwide; he was the emotional pillar for all the revolutionary and freedom-seeking people of the region and the world.”
The long list of world leaders and delegations expected to attend include Cuban President Raúl Castro, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Beyond Ahmadinejad, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is also confirmed. In representation of President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department sent a delegation comprised of U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (NY), former Congressman William Delahunt (MA) and diplomat James Derham.
Chávez lay in a half-open, glass-covered casket in the military academy’s hall, wearing olive green military gear, a black tie and the iconic red beret symbolic of his 14-year socialist rule. The government declared that more than 2 million people had come to pay their respects since Wednesday. Chávez’s body will be embalmed and kept in a glass casket similar to other socialist leaders such as Ho Chi Minh, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. After the funeral, his body will be transported to the military headquarters from where he commanded a failed coup in 1992.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said Vice President Nicolás Maduro would be formally sworn-in as acting president at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and that he would “call for elections.” The National Electoral Council (CNE) is tasked with setting a date for the elections, which must be called within 30 days according to the Venezuelan constitution.