(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Venezuela says a state funeral for its late president, Hugo Chavez, will be held on Friday.
The country’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, declared seven days of mourning and ordered all schools closed until next Monday. Jaua says the country is in “total normality” in the wake of Chavez’s death.
According to Jaua, a funeral procession will carry the late president’s body to the Military Academy in Caracas on Wednesday. It will remain there until Friday to allow for his supporters to pay their respects. He called on Chavez supporters to wear clothes in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag to honor the late leader.
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday that Chavez, the South American country’s fiery and controversial socialist president who came to power on a wave of popular sentiment and befriended some of the world’s most notorious dictators, had died at the age of 58.
Maduro is now the country’s interim president until new elections can be scheduled within 30 days.
Venezuelan government officials said on Monday that Chavez had developed a severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery, and that his condition was very delicate. Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba and was being cared for in a military hospital.
Maduro declared on state television that a “scientific commission” would look into Chavez’s death and the likelihood that his “historical enemies” had somehow been responsible for his disease, reported El Diario. Many observers interpret that “historical enemy” as being the United States.
“An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitely reject it,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Tuesday.
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Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Lauren del Valle, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN