CARACAS, Venezuela: By the hundreds of thousands, Hugo Chavez’s tearful supporters carried their dead president through streets still plastered with his smiling image, an epic farewell to a larger-than-life leader remembered simply as “our commander.”
In a display of raw, and at times, unruly emotion, generations of Venezuelans, many dressed in the red of Chavez’s socialist party, filled Caracas’ streets Wednesday to remember the man who dominated their country for 14 years before succumbing to cancer.
Chavez’s flag-draped coffin floated over hundreds of thousands of supporters as it made its way atop an open hearse on a seven-hour journey to a military academy in the capital. Mourners followed the lead of a grim drum major, with some shouting out “nuestro comandante” — “our commander,” in English — as the coffin passed.
At the academy, Chavez’s family and close advisers, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, attended a funeral Mass before the president’s open casket. Chavez’s funeral Friday promises to draw leaders from all over the world.
Even as Chavistas said their goodbyes, a sense of foreboding gripped the country as it awaited word on what might come next. Many Venezuelans, fearful of possible violence, stocked up on food and fuel as the country pondered whether the socialist agenda would survive, and for how long.
The 1999 constitution that Chavez himself pushed through mandates that elections be called within 30 days, but Chavez’s top lieutenants have often improvised with the law.