Tens of thousands mourn leader
A coffin containing the body of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was paraded through the streets of Caracas yesterday in a flood of emotion allies hope will help his deputy win an election and keep his self-styled revolution alive.
Tens of thousands of so-called Chavistas marched behind a hearse carrying the remains of the flamboyant and outspoken leader, draped in Venezuela’s blue, red and yellow national flag. Loudspeakers played a recording of the charismatic socialist singing songs.
Some supporters held heart-shaped placards that said: “I love Chávez!” Others cheered from rooftops, waving red T-shirts. Ending one of Latin America’s most remarkable populist rules, Mr Chávez died on Tuesday aged 58 after a two-year battle with cancer first detected in his pelvis.
His body was taken to a military academy to lie in state before a state funeral tomorrow.
In Ireland, tributes to him were led by President Michael D Higgins, who said Mr Chávez had achieved “a great deal during his term in office, particularly in the area of social development and poverty reduction”. He extended his “sincere condolences” to the Chávez family. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore spoke of his “great sadness” on learning of Mr Chávez’s death. “He was an important figure on the international stage, as well as in his own country,” said Mr Gilmore.
Reactions in the US ranged from celebratory to mournful. President Barack Obama reaffirmed “support for the Venezuelan people”, stressing the US “remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights”.
Hollywood personalities including actor Sean Penn and directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore lamented the loss of a man they called a friend.
“I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chávez will live forever in history,” said Stone.
Republican congressman Ed Royce from California, chairman of the House foreign relations committee, struck a different note on Twitter. “Good riddance to this dictator,” he wrote.
– (Reuters/Simon Carswell in Washington/IT foreign desk)