Venezuela prepares for Chavez’s funeral - Pakistan Today

Venezuela prepares for Chavez’s funeral

Leaders from Latin America and beyond have started arriving in Venezuela’s capital for the state funeral of late president Hugo Chavez. Hundreds of thousands of mourners are expected to attend Friday’s funeral, to be followed by the swearing-in of his handpicked successor Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Thousands of busses brought people from all over the country to the capital, Caracas. Fifty-five world leaders were expected at the funeral, including Cuba’s Raul Castro, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, shunned by the West but long courted by the anti-US Chavez. Ahmadinejad expressed his condolences as he arrived in Venezuela early on Friday, calling Chavez “a symbol for all those who seek justice, love and peace in the world”. Chavez, who died of cancer at the age of 58 on Tuesday, will be embalmed “like Ho Chi Minh, Lenin and Mao” and kept in a glass casket to be seen “for eternity,” Maduro said. Maduro said the body will be taken to the “Mountain Barracks” in the January 23 slum that was a bastion of Chavez support, a facility that is now being converted into a Museum of the Revolution. The National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, said Maduro would be formally sworn in as acting president after the funeral and that he would “call for elections”. The national electoral council is tasked with setting a date for elections, which must be called within 30 days under the constitution. Chavez was re-elected in October but never sworn in, as he travelled to Cuba for cancer surgery. The government said more than two million people had come to the military academy, where the late leader is laying in state, since Wednesday to get a glimpse of Chavez. His body lay in a half-open, glass-covered casket in the academy’s hall, wearing olive green military fatigues, a black tie and the iconic red beret that became a symbol of his 14-year socialist rule. Some waited up 10 hours in the searing sun through the evening for a chance to file past his coffin and pay their respects. “He’s in there, but my comandante is immortal,” said Saul Mantano, a 49-year-old salesman with a hat emblazoned with Chavez’s name and the Venezuelan flag. “I didn’t want to see him dead, but it’s a reality now.”



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