Fiery funeral for Venezuela’s Chavez
‘‘If my Comandante was such a divisive man who fought with everyone and with other countries, wouldn’t he be alone (at his funeral)?’’ asked Argenis Urbina, a 51-year-old bookseller who was riveted to the coverage on TV.
Others said they were put off by what they saw as an excess of pomp, particularly the plan to put Chavez’s body on display.
‘‘He was a president, and I would say not a good one. Not a hero,’’ said Gloria Ocampos, a retired office manager. ‘‘He should be buried, just like any other president. They are treating him like he was the father of the country ... It’s crazy.’’
Chavez was particularly beloved by the poor, whose lot he championed. But critics say he left his successors a monumental task, with annual inflation of more than 20 percent and public debt that quadrupled to more than $100 billion. Crime is endemic and Chavez’s chaotic management style has been blamed for a breakdown in infrastructure, particularly in the key oil industry.
The government gave national and international media no direct access to the funeral, a measure of the strict control with which Chavez and his followers have controlled the country for years. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua appealed to local media not to publish critical political analyses ‘‘which could be a provocation for a pained people.’’
Following the funeral, National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello was to swear in Maduro as interim president, as Chavez desired, despite complaints by the opposition that Cabello is the rightful holder of that post under the constitution. Cabello announced that the swearing-in will be held at the same military academy complex where Chavez’s body is lying in state. Normally, presidents in Venezuela are sworn in at the National Assembly.
In announcing the opposition boycott, spokesman Angel Medina said that Maduro’s ascension is ‘‘a violation of the constitutional order.’’
‘‘Venezuelans should walk along the path of constitutionality,’’ he said. ‘‘Today, more than ever we reject that they use the name of the president of the republic, who today is being buried, for political ends.’’
Associated Press writers E. Eduardo Castillo, Christopher Toothaker and Paul Haven in Caracas contributed to this report.
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