Hollywood star Sean Penn, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and a pair of US politicians joined mourners at Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s funeral Friday, with the reverend praying for better US-Venezuelan relations.
A somber-looking Penn, wearing a black suit and tie, sat among the crowd of foreign dignitaries who paid tribute to the leftist firebrand leader, who bonded with several American movie stars during his 14-year presidency.
Jackson, who had visited Chavez in Caracas, was among the clergymen who gave a prayer for the late president, who died at age 58 on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer.
“How do we measure a great leader? By how he treats the least of these. Hugo fed he hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes, he helped them realize their dreams. And so today we do mourn because we’ve lost a lot,” he said.
With the US charge d’affaires and two US Democratic party politicians in attendance, the reverend also pleaded for better relations between Venezuela and the United States after years of antagonism.
“We pray God today that he will heal the breach between the US and Venezuela,” Jackson said as Chavez lay in state in a flag-covered coffin, with more than 30 foreign leaders looking on at a military academy.
“Let us forgive, redeem and move on to higher ground. We are neighbors. We share the same hemisphere. We play ball together. We trade resources together. We fight drugs together. We share dreams together. We are bound by culture and environment,” he said.
Jackson offered words of support to Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, the outgoing vice president who was due to be sworn in later Friday in a ceremony that the opposition branded as unconstitutional.
“For Nicolas Maduro, grant him wisdom and support as he keeps hopes and dreams alive, as he picks up the baton and makes a great nation greater,” he said.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]