Hugo Chávez was carried through the streets of Caracas on Wednesday As the Venezuela flag-draped his coffin. Chavez’s state funeral was scheduled for Friday, but Nicolás Maduro, has said that Hugo Chávez’s embalmed body will be permanently displayed in a glass crystal casket so “his people will always have him.”
He also said his body would later to moved from the military museum to his final burial site. The Museum of the Revolution, near the presidential palace where Chávez ruled for 14 years. Chávez cultivated a cult of personality and a loyal band of followers throughout Latin America due in equal to his fiery rhetoric and his generous oil subsidies.
“You will see the commandante. He belongs to you,” Maduro told Venezuelans.
A state funeral for Chávez attended by at least 33 heads of government is scheduled to begin on Friday morning at 11am local time. While Venezuelans process the death of the protagonist of the last fourteen years of their history, the greatest mystery of the moment is what comes next. In other words, what is Chavismo without Chávez? His death has left a dearth in the leadership of Latin America’s radical Left.
Tens thousands of people have already filed past his glass-topped casket at a military academy following a seven-hour procession on Tuesday when his body was transported from the hospital where he died.
Chávez was dressed in an army uniform and a signature red beret like the one he wore in a 1992 speech to the nation that launched his political career after he led a failed coup. “Chávez was an outsized personality and he had the ambitions to spearhead his own Bolivarian revolution.”
People were given just a few seconds to glance at Chávez’s body inside the relatively simple wooden coffin. Chávez built a close coalition of regional leaders that were sympathetic to his socialist views, including Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Venezuelan oil subsidies also helped secure the allegiances of Cold War stalwarts such Cuba’s Castro brothers and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
On Tuesday, before Maduro announced Chávez’s death at Miraflores Palace, he surrounded himself with the government’s ministers and the military’s high command.
“Latin America’s move to the left is not completed,” said George Ciccariello-Maher, an expert in Venezuelan politics at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “There is definitely not a united left in Latin America.”
Venezuelan politics is full of blind alleys. “Maduro knew how to interpret Chávez’s wishes better than any other foreign minister,” an observer of Chavismo, who asked to be unnamed, told me. “But he has not had to contend with the country’s economic problems.” He added.
“He is an excellent operator but lacks the drive to consolidate his own position and the gravitas to take Chavismo to a new, more pragmatic era.”
Experts almost unanimously agree that a replacement for Chávez is almost impossible, due to both his political savvy and Venezuela’s oil money. But if there was to be someone to pilot Latin America’s radical left it might be Ecuador’s Correa.
Venezuela’s currency has just been devalued for the fourth time in a decade, and the economy will begin feeling the effects even as the theatrics and flowers from the funeral fade.
“There was no one like Hugo Chávez,” O’Neil said. “Chávez was a master orator. He was impressive.” “Chávez will be missed, and his era will be synonymous with lavishness,” “But there’s a saying in Venezuela—love doesn’t last when bellies are empty.”