Death and state funeral of Hugo Chávez

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Death and state funeral of Hugo Chávez
La carroza fúnebre con el Comandante Chávez.jpg
Hearse carrying Hugo Chávez's remains
Date 5–8 March 2013
Location Caracas, Venezuela
Burial Cuartel de la Montaña (es),

Hugo Chávez, the President of Venezuela, died on 5 March 2013 at the age of 58. His death triggered a presidential election which was constitutionally obliged to be called within 30 days. Vice President Nicolás Maduro served as interim president following Chávez's death until 14 April, when he was officially elected.[1][2]

Chávez was first elected as president in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000, 2006 and finally in 2012. However, Chávez was unable to be sworn in for a fourth term after the 2012 election due to his illness.

Illness and death[edit]

Chávez was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. In 2012, following the presidential election in October, he was flown to Cuba for medical treatment only to return to Venezuela and stay at an army hospital weeks before his death. Announcements of his return and updates of his health followed criticism by the opposition that the people were unaware of the president's health and presence. During the first lung infection, near the end of December, doctors implanted a tracheal tube to ease Chávez's breathing, but breathing insufficiency persisted and worsened, the government said on 4 March. At 16:25 VET (20:55 UTC) on 5 March 2013, Hugo Chávez died in Caracas, almost 2 years after he was first diagnosed.

Vice-president Nicolás Maduro announced Chávez's death on state television.[3] He said: "Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one feeling: Love."[4] Maduro said Chávez died "after battling a tough illness for nearly two years."[3] He added that police and troops would be deployed across the country "to guarantee the peace." The head of the presidential guard said Chávez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering and inaudibly mouthed his desire to live. In an interview to the Associated Press he said that Chávez could not speak but he said it with his lips ... "I don't want to die. Please don't let me die".[5] The BBC reported isolated incidents of violence following the announcement of Chávez's death. Some attackers burned tents of a group of students demanding more information about Chávez's health, though no one was injured.[4] Vice-president Maduro stated that he had "no doubt" foul play by "the historical enemies of our homeland" was behind Chávez's illness and death.[3] Defence Minister Diego Morelo Bellavia[6] said that the armed forces would remain loyal to the vice president and parliament and urged people to remain calm.[4]



Thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital Caracas. Many cried and hugged in public shows of emotion. Women were weeping at Miraflores Palace. With a mixture of joy and sadness Chávez supporters shared their impressions after him a last farewell: "That man emanates a force forward and his face says my people.".[7] People left work for the day upon hearing the news, shops and offices shut and cars and buses filled the streets.[8]

Opposition leader and opponent in the 2012 election, Henrique Capriles, called on the government to "act in strict accordance with its constitutional duties." He also added his condolences to Chávez's family saying "we were adversaries, but never enemies".[4] Acting President Nicolás Maduro said he believed Chávez was assassinated by Venezuela's "historical enemies" (widely assumed to mean the United States), and that a "scientific commission" would investigate this possibility. The US State Department denied any American involvement, calling the claim "absurd".[9]

On the first anniversary of Chavez's death, tens of thousands of his supporters marched through cities across Venezuela. This was coupled with the 2014 Venezuelan protests featuring pro and anti-government demonstrations.[10]


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement expressing condolences.[11]

Reactions within the Americas by citizens occurred outside Venezuela's embassies in Honduras, El Salvador, Chile and Ecuador.[12] Spanish citizens expressed their support and solidarity to the people of Venezuela, by concentrating on Wednesday afternoon in the vicinity of the Plaza Puerta del Sol in Madrid (capital), to express in slogans that "Chávez's legacy will remain far beyond of his death."[13]

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza ordered the hemispheric body's flags to be flown at half-mast and the convening of a special meeting of the Permanent Council in memory of Chávez.[14]

After announcing Hugo Chávez's death, Bolivian president Evo Morales broke down and cried on national television while paying tribute to Chávez;[15] Morales then decreed seven days of mourning in Bolivia after Chávez's death.[16] Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who had cancelled a scheduled trip to Argentina to meet president Kirchner, led a minute of silence in Brasília.[17] Rousseff decreed three days of mourning.[17] Rousseff's predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also expressed grief.[18][19] El Salvador president Mauricio Funes and Chilean president Sebastián Piñera both praised Chávez's strong character,[12][20] and the Chilean government declared three days of national mourning for Chávez.[21]

The Cuban Council of State decreed two days of official mourning, from 6 am on 6 March to midnight 7 March, and a third day of national mourning on 8 March.[16][22][23] The presidents of Dominican Republic, Haiti,[24] Uruguay and Ecuador both decreed three days of mourning for Chávez.[23][25]

Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega declared seven days of mourning.[26] Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos,[27] Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto[28] lamented the death of Chávez; The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release expressing condolences and "our feeling of fraternity".[29] Colombia ordered its 15 consulates in Venezuela temporarily closed to observe the days of mourning. Guyanan president Donald Ramotar,[30] Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina,[31] and the President of Suriname Desi Bouterse regretted losing a "friend". The Government of Suriname declared Friday a day of national mourning. Ramotar and Honduran president Porfirio Lobo praised Chavez for his contribution to regional integration; the National Congress of Honduras addressed a minute of silence.[32]

Trinidad and Tobago[33] and Jamaica said that special arrangements would be made for an official tribute to Chávez.[34] Uruguay announced that President José Mujica was in Argentina for a summit when Chávez died, but that he would fly to Caracas with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to attend the funeral.[35] Argentina declared three days of mourning[35][36] Suriname declared Friday a day of mourning.

North America[edit]

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences;[37] former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien eulogised in a televised interview.[20]

In Miami, some Venezuelans joyfully celebrated Chavez's death, and were cautiously optimistic of new elections for Chávez's successor; an estimated 189,219 Venezuelans live in the United States, most of whom are anti-Chavez.[38] United States President Barack Obama reaffirmed the support of the US for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.[20] Former president Jimmy Carter complimented Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of Venezuelans. According to a statement posted at the Carter Center website, Carter and his wife Rosalynn "came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized."[39]


Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who chairs the African Union Commission, conveyed her condolence to the family, government and people of Venezuela.[40] The organisation observed a minute of silence at the A.U. headquarters on 8 March during the celebration of the International Women's Day.[41]

Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika,[42] Gambian president Yahya Jammeh,[43] Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz,[44] Sahrawi Republic president Mohamed Abdelaziz,[45] South African president Jacob Zuma,[46] Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir,[47] Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete,[48] all expressed their sorrow and offered their "deepest condolences". Gambia's president Yahya Jammeh proclaimed two national prayer days at mosques and churches for Chavez, on 8 and 10 March 2013.[43] The Sahrawi government declared a day of national mourning.[49]

Asia and the Middle East[edit]

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai,[50] President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan,[51] Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev,[52] Chinese president Hu Jintao and Communist Party of China general secretary Xi Jinping,[53] deputy director-general of the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry Calvin Ho,[54] Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh issued statements of "heartfelt condolences".[55]

Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas,[56] Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov[57] Vietnamese leaders – including Party general secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, and National Assembly chairman Nguyễn Sinh Hùng – also expressed condolences; some lauded Chavez's achievements.[58] Memorial services were scheduled to be held in Ramallah and other cities in the West Bank and senior Palestinian officials paid their respects at the Venezuelan Embassy in Ramallah.[56] In Gaza City streets were decorated with Venezuelan flags and posters of Chavez.[59] Hamas, the de facto government of the Gaza Strip, lauded Chávez as a "great leader";[59] The Syrian Arab News Agency paid homage to Chávez for taking "an honourable stance regarding the conspiracy against Syria".[60] Iran declared a day of national mourning.[61]


In the European Union, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that they had received the news of Chávez's death with "sadness."[62] French president François Hollande[63] and British foreign secretary William Hague were "saddened".[20] Irish president Michael D. Higgins sent condolences,[64] Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also paid tribute.[64] Italian president Giorgio Napolitano ("painful")[65] The Spanish government extended its condolences,[66] as did Portuguese president Aníbal Cavaco Silva sent condolences,[67] whilst Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt stated that Chávez "undeniably affected his country and the entire region" and hoped for greater democracy and respect for human rights in Venezuela;[68] Foreign minister Carl Bildt criticized his policies,[69][70] saying that Chávez had "plunder[ed] the oil wealth of [his] country".[68]

President of Russia Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed their "sincere condolences"[71][72] Russia would send a delegation consisting of Rosneft president Igor Sechin, Trade and Industry minister Denis Manturov, Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov, Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.[73] Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić and prime minister Ivica Dačić sent condolences and lamented the loss of "a friend". The president's cabinet also announced that Hugo Chávez had been posthumously honoured with the Order of the Republic of Serbia[74] Belarus declared three days of mourning[75]

In the Vatican, a condolence letter was read during a meeting of Cardinals prior to the Papal Conclave.


Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr[76] and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key expressed condolences "to the Chavez family and the people of Venezuela".[77] However, Key, who was on a diplomatic trip to Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil, did not attend the funeral although meetings had been postponed due to Latin American leaders attending, and was criticized by ex-Greens MP Keith Locke, Toby Manhire and others.[78]


Chávez' funeral procession

Foreign minister Elías Jaua announced seven days of mourning for Chávez.[79] He also said that Chávez's body would be taken to the Military Academy in Caracas on 6 March, where it would lie in state for three days, and it did, with so many Venezuelans joining the procession with a military band playing music as the cortege began its final stretch at the Heroes Avenue. A state funeral for Chávez was held in Caracas on 8 March.[3][80][81] Acting President Nicolás Maduro originally stated that Chávez's body would be embalmed and permanently displayed in a glass sarcophagus at a military museum after the state funeral on 8 March.[82][83] However, on 13 March Maduro announced that the body would not be embalmed, due to lack of preparation and the time that had passed.[84]

Venezuelan flag at half-mast in mourning for the death of President Chávez

The Acting president extended the National Mourning for four days more, to eleven days, until the transfer of Chávez's remains to the Museum of the Revolution at Fort Montana where, in 1992, Chavez launched his attempted coup against the national government, and where it was to be interred permanently with full honors.[85] After a final funeral mass and service, the funeral casket left the Academy grounds on 17 March to a 21-gun salute and final honors by the Academy Combined Corps of Cadets led by the Academy president, Divisional General Alexis Ascensión López Ramírez which ended with the casket being carried out of Fort Tiuna to the tune of the anthem of the Apure Braves 414th Armored Battalion, "Patria Querida" (Fatherland Beloved), by the massed military bands in attendance and sung by the cadets and representatives of the National Armed Forces's service arms while being escorted by the dignitaries while a missing man formation in his honor was done by Sukhoi Su-30 fighters of the Venezuelan Air Force, then afterwards a full funeral motorcade started from the Heroes Avenue to Fort Montana, Caracas, where the casket containing the remains was to be laid with a military band playing march music as the motorcade commenced. The motorcade was escorted by the Mounted Platoon of the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade at the starting points and later joined by many civilian motorcycle riders from all over Caracas and the people of the city.[citation needed] Upon the cortege's arrival, the Venezuelan National Militia gave its final full honors followed by the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade's final honors as the casket arrived. Acting President Maduro and Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, plus Chavez's brother Adan and daughter Maria Gabiela then each gave speeches to everyone in attendance and the coffin was blessed before its interment. The Flag of Venezuela which covered the coffin was formally folded by several servicemen and turned over to Mrs. Elena Frías de Chávez, the late President's mother, by the Acting President himself on behalf of the entire nation.


Mausoleum of Hugo Chávez.

There was an active proposal in the National Government to ask the National Assembly of Venezuela for a constitutional amendment to move the remains to be beside Simón Bolívar's at the National Pantheon of Venezuela, given the high demand of the people to have his remains stationed there with those of great Venezuelan patriots. However, Chávez's remains were placed in the Revolution Museum in Fort Montaña (es). A 4-man squad from the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade stands guard over the tomb, which was placed above a José Vivas sculpture called Flower of the Four Elements and is changed every hour and a Venezuelan National Militia platoon stand guard over the old 19th century cannon at the barracks grounds every afternoon, firing it at the moment of his demise to honor his memory.

Foreign dignitaries who attended the state funeral ceremonies[edit]

Heads of state and government
 Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer[86]
 Argentina President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
 Aruba Prime Minister Michiel Godfried Eman[87]
 Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko[88]
 Bolivia President Evo Morales[89]
 Chile President Sebastián Piñera[89]
 Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos[90]
 Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla[86]
 Cuba President Raúl Castro[89]
 Curaçao Prime Minister Daniel Hodge[91]
 Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit[86]
 Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina[91]
 Ecuador President Rafael Correa[89]
 El Salvador President Mauricio Funes[89]
 Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang[92]
 Guatemala President Otto Pérez Molina[89]
 Guyana President Donald Ramotar[86]
 Haiti President
Prime Minister
Michel Martelly[91]
Laurent Lamothe[91]
 Honduras President Porfirio Lobo Sosa[86]
 Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad[93]
 Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller[91]
 Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto[91]
 Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega[94]
 Panama President Ricardo Martinelli[89]
 Peru President Ollanta Humala[89]
 Saint Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas[91]
 Saint Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony[91]
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves[86]
 Suriname President Dési Bouterse[91]
 Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar[91]
 Uruguay President José Mujica[95]
Government representatives
 People's Republic of China President's Special Envoy Zhang Ping[96]
 Colombia Foreign Minister
Mayor of Bogotá
María Ángela Holguín[97]
Gustavo Petro
 Equatorial Guinea First Lady Constancia Mangue de Obiang[98]
 France Minister of Overseas France Victorin Lurel
 Guadeloupe Guadeloupe R.C. president Josette Borel-Lincertin
 Grenada Foreign minister Nicholas Steele
 India Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot[99]
 Netherlands Minister of State Hans van den Broek[100]
 Portugal Minister of State and Foreign Minister Paulo Portas[101]
 Russia Foreign Minister
Federation Council Speaker
Trade and Industry Minister
Sergey Lavrov
Valentina Matviyenko
Denis Manturov[102]
 Sahrawi Republic President's Special Envoy, Minister Delegate for Latin America Hach Ahmed Baricalla[49]
 Spain Crown Prince Felipe, Prince of Asturias[103]
 Nicaragua First Lady Rosario Murillo[104]
 Syria Minister of Presidential Affairs Mansour Fadlallah Azzam[105]
 Turkey Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay[106]
 United Kingdom Ambassador Catherine Nettleton
 United States Chargé d'affaires, Caracas
James M. Derham[103]
Gregory Meeks
  Vatican City Bishop of San Cristóbal Mario Moronta[107]
 Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai
Heads of multilateral organizations
 European Union Head of delegation, Caracas Antonio Cardoso Mota
 Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza[108]
 United Nations Executive Secretary of ECLAC Alicia Bárcena Ibarra[108]
IDB logo.gif Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno[108]

Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner was amongst the first heads of state to arrive in Venezuela on Tuesday 5 March. She visited the chapel at the military hospital to pay her final respects on Thursday before returning home,[108] citing health reasons.[109] Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff attended a wake on Thursday at the military academy before returning to Brazil on Friday morning.[109] Former President Lula da Silva accompanied president Rousseff and departed before the funeral service.

Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and his wife Aline attended the funeral,[110] along with former Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba, former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, and former Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo.

Other attendees included Former US congressman William Delahunt, President of Russian Rosneft oil company Igor Sechin and CEO of Rostec Sergei Chemezov;[102] Nikolay Lukashenko, son of the Belarus president; Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA in Greece; from Spain were Cayo Lara and Willy Meyer Pleite (MEP).[111] American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and actor Sean Penn also attended.[112][113]

Honour guards were provided by the cadets of the component service academies of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Military University and by personnel of the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade, among others.[citation needed] The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra provided musical accompaniment during the state funeral services.

Analysis by foreign media[edit]

The BBC quoted analysts as saying his death could alter the balance against the so-called "pink tide" in favour of centrist governments. It also suggested a possible economic impact due Venezuelan oil sales at below market prices to some neighbouring countries, especially in the Caribbean.[4] Americas Quarterly editor Christopher Sabatini suggested that the "Chavez myth" would outlive his achievements.[114] Prior to his death, Venezuela's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were also highlighted as dependent on Chávez.[115]


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