Some Venezuelans said the ceremony was befitting of a monarch, with actors like Sean Penn arriving to mourn alongside the presidents of more than 30 countries. The dignitaries included close friends from the region, among them the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador, and also allies from around the world, such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
The United States, which Maduro earlier this week implied had taken part in a plot to infect Chavez with cancer that killed him, sent an understated delegation that included Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) and former Massachusetts congressman William Delahunt (D). The United States does not have an ambassador based in Venezuela, the last one having been ousted by Chavez during one of the frequent spats he had with Washington.
Another American who was invited, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, led a prayer in which he called on God to help “heal the breach” between Venezuela and the Obama administration.
State television provided continuous coverage, with the hosts gushing about Chavez’s legacy, saying that he not only improved the lives of Venezuelans but also forged “a multi-
polar” world that challenged American supremacy.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s historic — imagine being out there to hear the people say, ‘All of us are Chavez,’ ” said one host. “That’s how it is. Chavez has given us a legacy — political, historic, cultural, economic.”
To be sure, those who make up Chavez’s political base, many of whom are urban poor, flocked to the academy during the past three days to get in line for the chance to say goodbye to their leader.
“It’s not the way you want to see him, but it was good, and I felt a good energy in that moment when I went in there,” said Kelly Garcia, 27. But she added that “he will not be replaced because no one can replace him.”
Many said they would take Chavez’s words to heart — and continue to support his self-styled revolution and Maduro.
“He did so much for us, and as long as we Venezuelans keep that in mind, then everything that he did hasn’t died,” said Maria Andrade, 54. “Now is the time when we need to keep in mind the values Hugo Chavez gave us.”
Emilia Diaz contributed to this report.