Hugo Chavez died of a heart attack, it has been revealed, and the Venezuelan leader’s last words before he passed implored those present to not let him die.
Fifty-eight-year-old Chavez’s heart attack and final moments were described by the head of Venezuela’s presidential guard, Gen. Jose Ornella, outside the military academy where Chavez’s body lay in state.
Gen. Ornella spent much of the past two years at the side of Chavez while he battled the cancer that eventually weakened his body, and the military leader describes harrowing last moments for the leader who, while controversial on the world stage, was mourned by many as a fierce advocate for the poor.
Ornella recounted Chavez’s heart attack as well as his last plea:
“He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips … ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,’ because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country.”
As Ornella recounts Chavez’s heart attack, he also says that, when Chavez prepared to undergo his fourth and final surgery in Cuba for cancer treatment, the Venezuelan leader had “very little hope he would make it out of that operation” as he addressed his people on December 8.
It was just three days later on December 11 that actor Sean Penn led a vigil for Hugo Chavez in South America, emotionally speaking of the man he called a friend as candles were lit and prayers were offered. Penn said:
“We admire President Chavez. For his courage. For his fair mindedness … He is one of the most important forces that we have on this planet. And I will wish him nothing but that great strength that he showed over and over again. I do it in love and I do it in gratitude.”
Ornella too echoed sentiments of fellow politically prominent Venezuelans that the US had a role in Chavez’s heart attack as well as his cancer struggles, saying:
“I think it will be 50 years before they declassify a document [which I believe will prove] the hand of the enemy is involved.”
Following Hugo Chavez’s heart attack death, the country entered into a week-long period of official mourning.