Chavez died Tuesday, striking the country emotionally, as well as politically. His chosen successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, will be sworn in as acting president Friday night after Chavez’s funeral, with a presidential election to come within 30 days.
“We have decided to prepare the body of our ‘Comandante President,’ to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,” Maduro said Thursday. “All these measures are being taken so that the people can be with their leader forever.”
Chavez’s funeral will bring in several heads of state, including Cuba’s Raul Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though Chavez’s less than stellar views on the U.S. were well known, several American diplomats will be present, such as Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.). Delegates from the Obama administration may be in attendance as well, though the White House has yet to name any potential diplomats.
With a shift in power coming to Venezuela after 14 years of Chavez’s rule, U.S. officials believe that the strained relationship between the two countries could be mended. A pair of American Air Force attaches was expelled from the country’s embassy in Caracas on the day of Chavez’s death, having been accused of “planning to destabilize the country.”
Venezuela’s political opposition will likely run leader Henrique Capriles against Maduro in the upcoming election. Capriles was defeated by Chavez during last year’s election. Maduro was Chavez’s choice for new head of state, and while he shares the policies of the late president, he lacks the captivating public persona that allowed Chavez to hold power for more than a decade.