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Venezuela Honors Late President Chavez

  • Brian Padden

Hugo Chavez

  • 58 years old
  • Gained national attention in a failed 1992 coup
  • President since 1999
  • Ousted by a coup for two days in 2002
  • Started cancer treatment in 2011
  • Vocal critic of the U.S. and supporter of Cuba, Iran, Syria
In Caracas, thousands of supporters of President Chavez gathered outside the Venezuelan Military Academy on Friday to pay their last respects.

Inside, more than 30 heads of state and dignitaries from five continents were on hand for the funeral service. Chavez, who was 58, died Tuesday after a two-year fight against cancer.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called Chavez a close friend and revolutionary, attended, as did most Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

Also on hand was U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who said a prayer for peace between the U.S. and Venezuela. Relations between the countries grew tense during Chavez's time in office, in which he often portrayed the U.S. as a global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year.

Jackson was not part of an official delegation of U.S. dignitaries sent to attend the funeral.


"There has not been a leader in the history of our country more vilified, more insulted and more vilely attacked than our commander, the president," said Vice President Nicolas Maduro during an emotional address that defended the late president’s achievements and socialist agenda.

Nicolas Maduro

  • Venezuelan vice president, Hugo Chavez's chosen successor
  • Former foreign minister
  • Was a member of assembly that drafted a new constitution after Chavez's 1998 election
  • Campaigned for Mr. Chavez's release from prison in the 1990s
  • 50 years old, former bus driver
"There has not been a leader in the history of our country more vilified, more insulted and more vilely attacked than our commander, the president," said Vice President Nicolas Maduro during an emotional address that defended the late president’s achievements and socialist agenda.

"Forever and for all time, for today and forever more, commander they could not defeat you," he said. "They cannot defeat us ever."

According to Maduro, who is slated to be formally sworn-in as interim president until new elections are held, the body of Chavez will be embalmed and forever displayed inside a glass tomb at a military museum not far from the presidential palace. The vice president compared Chavez to other revolutionary leaders whose bodies also have been preserved, including Lenin and Mao.

Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue says relations with the U.S. could improve under Maduro despite his strong anti-American tone — and the recent expulsion of two American military attaches.

“I think what we can expect from Maduro is a very tough, ideological, confrontational stand in public, but behind the scenes I would imagine he would try to work things out, try to establish channels of communication at least, including with the United States," he said.

The constitution says elections must be held within 30 days of Chavez's death, though the government has not set a date. Maduro has announced he will be the candidate of the ruling socialist party against likely opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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