Caracas, Venezuela — Hugo Chavez’s funeral was held on Friday and was attended by several world leaders, who paid their respects to the late Venezuelan president.
World leaders were joined by athletes and left-wing celebrities in celebrating the life of Chavez, who passed away from a massive heart attack on Tuesday.
The funeral was held at the same military academy where Hugo Chavez once attended. It began with Venezuela’s national youth orchestra singing the Venezuelan national anthem. Later on, a government-allied congressman sang songs from Chavez’s native state of Barinas.
The streets outside the academy, where Chavez’s body has been laying in state since Wednesday, took on the atmosphere of a carnival as thousands watched the funeral ceremony on large-screen TVs under the hot sun. A line to see the leader’s body stretched for 1.5 miles, but was halted while the ceremony took place.
Hugo Chavez’s funeral was attended by 32 heads of state. All of them were called at some point during the ceremony to flank Chavez’s casket and observe a moment of silence as honor guards. Reverend Mario Moronta commented that the turnout of foreign leaders and thousands of Venezuelan citizens was a testament to the role the late President played.
Chavez’s legacy is mixed. While he has been credited for putting Venezuela’s poor at the forefront of his policies, he also had an authoritarian streak that was a source of criticism for defenders of human rights and press freedom. Along with Chavez’s funeral ceremony in Venezuela, tributes to the late president were also paid in Cuba.
The military made a 21-gun salute from the fortress overlooking Havana as military officers placed roses in front of a photo of Hugo. The two countries have close military ties and Cuba sent hundreds of military and intelligence officers to help Chavez while he was president.
Hugo Chavez went to Cuba for cancer treatments in December. His surgery was complicated by heavy bleeding. The Venezuelan president also suffered from infections that complicated his recovery. He returned to Caracas the week before his death, but was not able to recover. An official reported that he died of a massive heart attack on Tuesday.
After Hugo Chavez’s funeral, his body will lie in state for another ten days. After this, he will be permanently preserved and placed on display at the revolution museum near the presidential palace in Caracas.