Chavez Funeral Details a Mystery Hours From Its Start

As leaders from 5 continents flock to Venezuela
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2013 7:22 AM CST
Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's acting president, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, and his wife Rosa Murillo, mourn next to Hugo Chavez's coffin during his wake at a military academy in Caracas.   (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)
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(Newser) – Hugo Chavez's state funeral is today, and leaders from around the world have traveled to Caracas for the event—which is set to begin at 10:30am local time but whose details have been, per the AP, "shrouded in astonishing secrecy." At least 50 countries from five continents have sent delegations, including more than 30 heads of state. Among them are such notable Chavez allies as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Raul Castro. "He was a dear friend of all nations worldwide," Ahmadinejad said, according to CNN. "He was the emotional pillar for all revolutionary and freedom-seeking people." Even the US will be represented, with Rep. Gregory Meeks and former Rep. William Delahunt, both Democrats, making the trek. For a partial list of the leaders present, click here.

Hordes of Venezuelans came out to get a glimpse of Chavez at his wake yesterday, waiting in lines that started forming as early as Wednesday, the New York Times reports. (Reuters reports 2 million have filed past his body.) The funeral represents a major opportunity for his successors to engage with the public, the AP points out. Vice President Nicolas Maduro will be sworn in today as well, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello announced last night—even though according to Venezuela's constitution, Cabello himself should become interim president. Maduro is Chavez's chosen successor, and will be his party's presidential candidate. (Read more Hugo Chavez stories.)

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