Dozens of leaders to Chavez funeral, from Cuba to Iran
Venezuelan officials boasted that up to 55 world leaders will attend the state funeral of President Hugo Chavez on Friday, including US bugbears Cuba, Iran and Belarus.
Interim leader Nicolas Maduro said heads of state or government from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have confirmed their attendance for the Caracas military academy ceremony at 1530 GMT.
Chavez forged close relations with several US irritants during his 14-year socialist rule, bonding with leaders like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
His closest ally, Cuban President Raul Castro, was the latest leader to arrive in Caracas on Thursday to pay tribute to the socialist whose cheap oil deliveries helped to keep the communist regime afloat.
He will be followed later in the evening by two more US foes, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Belarussian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Almost every leader from Latin America is joining the ceremony, including Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa and Bolivian President Evo Morales.
European Union nations were sending lower-ranking officials, while the United States was not expected to be represented by senior officials.
Spain sent its heir to the throne, Prince Felipe, while France dispatched overseas minister Victorin Lurel. The 27-nation EU will be represented by the head of its delegation in Caracas.
Maduro said Russia was sending Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov but he did not list all the leaders who were on their way.
Chavez, who lost his battle to cancer at age 58 on Tuesday, has been lying in state since Wednesday.
The government said his body will be transferred Friday to the military barracks where he plotted a failed coup in 1992. It will be embalmed to be seen “for eternity.”