Eternal display in glass casket planned for embalmed Chavez
Venezuela president Hugo Chávez Frías, 58, lost his two-year battle with cancer at 4:25 Tuesday evening and today, Friday, millions of mourners are expected to attend his state funeral in Caracas. Chavez won’t be buried in the dust; neither will he be cremated. Instead, his body is to be embalmed for permanent display at the Museum of Revolution, according to his interim successor, Venezuelan vice president Nicolás Maduro.
The decision to put Chavez on permanent display inside a glass casket reportedly sprung from his last words: “I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die.” Chavez, it is said, wanted to continue serving his people.
Sixteen countries, including Cuba, where Chavez had received treatment for cancer, have declared national mourning for a man described as “a Latin American giant.”
A statement issued by the Embassy of Cuba in Belize said, “Official mourning [in Cuba] was declared starting from March 6, 6:00 p.m., until March 7, midnight, and National Mourning for March 8.”
Venezuela Foreign Affairs Minister, Elías Jaua Milano, announced Thursday that 54 visiting delegations, including heads of state and other high-level officials from across the globe, will attend today’s funeral.
Departing Thursday for Caracas to attend the funeral were Belize’s Acting Prime Minister Gaspar Vega and Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexis Rosado. They are to be joined by Belize’s Ambassador to Washington and the OAS, Nestor Mendez.
“I think that [Chavez] was a vanguard in many respects and he made a lot of efforts in bringing the Latin American and Caribbean nations together,” CEO Rosado told us, before his departure. “I think it is something that will go down in history as one of his greatest accomplishments for the hemisphere, along the lines of what Simon Bolivar [Chavez’s predecessor] dreamed about,” he noted.
Rosado said that, “Even though [Belize] had very good relations with Venezuela before Chavez, during his time the bilateral relations increased tremendously. He affected the lives of many Belizeans directly and indirectly. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.”
The CEO said that a replacement for president would be installed following elections due to be called in 30 days.
Venezuela has enjoyed stability under Chavez and it is expected that this will continue—whatever the results of the elections, he added.
Among the biggest gifts Venezuela gave to Belize under Chavez’s tenure were funds to rehabilitate the Marion Jones Sports Complex and funds for housing. The Chavez administration also supported Belize with health services.
His hand of friendship reached across the hemisphere, but particularly notable was his love for our region: “His vision of bringing together the people of Latin America and the Caribbean was driven by his deep sense of concern for the well-being of the disadvantaged in society, not only in his own country but in the wider region,” Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, said in a statement released by CARICOM Thursday.
LaRocque said Chavez “demonstrated solidarity with the Governments and People of the Caribbean Community throughout his tenure and created avenues for co-operation and strengthening relations with the Governments and improving the lives of the people.”
LaRocque regards Chavez as a “true friend” of CARICOM.
“His struggle with the disease that finally claimed his life epitomized the heart and spirit which he brought to bear in his attempts to raise the standard of living of the less fortunate in his homeland, in the Caribbean and the wider region,” LaRocque added.
The country has received 42 notes of condolences from sister states and 10 from international organizations.
The Organization of American States, which will be among those having official representation at Chavez’s funeral, observed a moment of silence in his honor Thursday, during a special meeting of the OAS Permanent Council, even as the count of persons, mostly locals, traveling to view Chavez’s body in Caracas reached a tally of two million.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Government of Belize said, “His public life was one of leadership and struggle for high ideals and principles, with the purpose of improving the lives of individual citizens and promoting a spirit of community among peoples and among nations.”
It added that, “It is under his leadership that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was established in Caracas, Venezuela, in December of 2011.”
The Opposition People’s United Party had issued a statement saying, “The former Prime Minister of Belize the Rt. Hon. Said Musa described President Hugo Chavez as ‘a revolutionary leader whose vision for a more united Latin American and the Caribbean captured the hearts and minds of freedom-loving peoples throughout our region.’”
Musa added that, “He was always ready and willing to provide developmental assistance to Belize; in housing for the poor, in quality and affordable healthcare, in improvements of sport facilities for our young people. The Petro-Caribe initiative, which shares the oil wealth of Venezuela with its neighbors, stands as a testament to the great spirit of generosity and solidarity of Hugo Chavez to many struggling countries of the Caribbean and the Americas including Belize. We will forever be grateful.”
Born July 28, 1954, Chavez rose to power in 1998. He is a father of four: Rosa Virginia, Mara Gabriela, Hugo Rafael and Rosinés.
Chavez attempted a failed coup in 1992, for which he was jailed. While in prison, he devoted much of his time to the study, reflection and analysis of the state of affairs both locally and internationally, and emerged from there ready to take over the reins of leadership, leaving a legacy for which millions revere him today.
Some mourners chanted: “Chavez to Pantheon.” (A pantheon is defined as “All the gods of a people or religion collectively.”)