Hugo Chavez expressed his desire to live, and his love of Venezuela, shortly before dying of a massive heart attack, the head of the country’s presidential guard has claimed.
General Jose Ornella told the Associated Press: “He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips… ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,’ because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country.” General Ornella also echoed Vice-President Nicolas Maduro’s allegation that foul play was involved. “I think it will be 50 years before they declassify a document [that] I think [will show] the hand of the enemy is involved,” he added.
Cuba in limbo
Cuba, which declared three days of mourning after the death of Hugo Chavez, is facing an uncertain future now that he is no longer in power. Mr Chavez, who spent three months in Havana receiving treatment for his cancer and had a close personal relationship with Fidel Castro, right, supplied Cuba with huge amounts of subsidised oil. It helped to support the sanction-constricted Cuban economy which went into freefall in the early 1990s following the collapse of its major supporter, the Soviet Union. Cubans will now watch closely to see who succeeds Mr Chavez – Nicolas Maduro is expected to maintain close ties with the Caribbean island, but should the opposition leader Henrique Capriles win the future is far less assured.
World leaders have gathered in Caracas for today’s funeral which is set to draw millions of Chavez’s supporters. His international allies, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, above, and his Argentinian counterpart Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner are expected to attend. Russia has sent the head of the state oil company Rosneft, Igor Sechin, an ally of Vladimir Putin who allegedly engineered the arrest of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and is described in the Moscow media as “the scariest man on earth”.
Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, left, the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, announced yesterday that he would be flying home to direct the orchestra for the funeral. He said: “This is a very difficult time. I have been asked to return to Caracas to be a part of the ceremony. As the music director of El Sistema and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, symbols of Venezuelan culture, I must return.”
The mayor of Minsk has announced his intention to name a street in the Belarussian capital after the deceased President. Mr Chavez visited Minsk a number of times.