March 8, 2013
Chavez scheduled to be laid to rest today

World leaders, along with thousands of mourners are expected to pay their final respects, to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias, who will be laid to rest today.{{more}}

International officials began gathering in the South American capital since Wednesday, after Chavez, 58, passed away on Tuesday, following a long battle with cancer and other ailments.

The charismatic leader died at a military hospital in Caracas, Venezuela, shortly after returning from Cuba, where he had undergone surgery for cancer.

On Wednesday, his wooden casket, draped with the national flag was placed atop a wreath and flower covered hearse which drove slowly, accompanied by mourners, and taken to a military academy, where it laid in state for today’s state funeral.

Chavez’s illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected to a fourth term on October 7.

He was first elected president in 1999.

During his tenure, Chavez, who declared himself a democratic socialist, was credited with the changes that were brought about in his country, as well as in other Latin American countries.

As president, the leader referred to by some as El Comandante, spearheaded PetroCaribe, an oil alliance between Venezuela and a number of Caribbean states, to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment. The alliance was launched on 29 June, 2005 in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela.

Another organization, The Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, was also coordinated by Chavez, as well as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC), to which St Vincent and the Grenadines is affiliated.

According to the Venezuelan constitution, presidential elections should be called in 30 days. Chavez had specified that his supporters should support Maduro as his successor, while Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in the last election, is expected to also vie for the presidency. (JJ)