St. Kitts and Nevis delegation off to Venezuela for funeral of Hugo Chavez

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 7TH 2013 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas left here Thursday afternoon for Caracas, to attend the state funeral of the late Venezuelan President, His Excellency Hugo Chavez.

Dr, Douglas, along with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy, the Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Foreign Affairs, Mr. Elvis Newton left the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport onboard a private aircraft, courtesy of the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have been queuing to pay their last respects to President Hugo Chavez, who died on Tuesday after 14 years in power.

His body is lying in state at the military academy in the capital Caracas before his state funeral on Friday.

His supporters want him interred alongside Simon Bolivar, the 19th Century independence leader he claimed as his “revolutionary” inspiration.

Mr Chavez died at the age of 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Thousands queued through the night to file silently past the open coffin, where Mr Chavez is lying in an olive-green military uniform and his signature red beret.

His family and close advisers, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, paid their respects on Wednesday.

Hugo Chavez inspired great devotion among supporters of his socialist ‘revolution’

Several Latin American nations are holding periods of national mourning for the left-wing leader, who was a strong advocate of regional unity.

Mr. Chavez’s supporters are pressing for a change to the constitution so he can be buried in Venezuela’s national Pantheon alongside Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator” who led Venezuela and other South American countries to independence from colonial rule.

Normally, celebrated Venezuelans can only be admitted 25 years after their death.

Hugo Chavez’s body is lying in state at the Fuerte Tiuna Military Academy in Caracas, where Mr. Chavez studied as a young cadet.

The coffin, covered in a Venezuelan flag, was placed in a hall dedicated to the “liberators of South America”.

Thousands of people lined up quietly to say one last goodbye to Mr Chavez, among them government officials and Latin American leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The coffin was taken by hearse through the streets of Caracas from the military hospital where Mr Chavez died on Tuesday. The televised procession took over seven hours, and thousands of people accompanied Mr. Chavez’s family and government officials for kilometres.

Upon reaching the military academy, a Mass was held with the participation of Mr Chavez’s mother and daughters, who were received with a long applause.

New details have been reported of Mr Chavez’s last moments.

The head of the presidential guard was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that he had been with Mr. Chavez when he died.

General Jose Ornella said Mr. Chavez had died of a massive heart attack, and in his final moments had said he wanted to carry on living.

“He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips: ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,'” said Gen Ornella, according to AP.

Tumultuous crowds thronged the streets of Caracas on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of his coffin as it was taken to the military academy where he trained as a young army officer.

Mourners, many wearing red T-shirts and carrying pictures of Mr.Chavez, threw flowers at the coffin, which was draped in a Venezuelan flag.

Many Chavez supporters thank him for changing their lives, says the BBC’s Will Grant in Caracas.

One supporter at the procession, Maria Alexandra, said: “After Jesus Christ, there’s Hugo Chavez. Before him, the government didn’t take care about us. Now children have everything.”

Our correspondent says Mr. Chavez’s death has created a potential vacuum at the heart of his political movement.

According to the constitution, there must be a presidential election within 30 days and the government has said it intends to stick to that timetable

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