As world leaders were arriving at Caracas late Thursday for Friday’s funeral ceremony of President Hugo Chavez, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez and her delegation were back in Buenos Aires. The Argentine president visited the Military Hospital’s chapel Thursday noon for a final goodbye to the Venezuelan leader and then ordered the flight back to Buenos Aires.
“It was an honest and emotional homage” to a very good friend of Argentina, said Senator Anibal Fernandez who was a member of the delegation.
The Argentine president flew to Caracas as soon as she was informed of Chavez’ death Tuesday evening with a small representative delegation including her sister Giselle, her daughter Florencia and Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and First Lady Senator Lucia Topolansky.
Together with Mujica and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, they were the first heads of state to mourn as honour guard the coffin of Chavez.
Earlier in that day, Argentina’s ambassador to Venezuela, Carlos Cheppi, said that Cristina Fernández “felt an affection which went far beyond protocol with Chávez.”
“When (late former president) Néstor (Kirchner) died, Chávez was very supportive emotionally for Cristina (Fernández) and her family,” continued Cheppi, adding that “this is not a situation defined by protocol but by affection, family affection,”
Argentina’s ambassador to London Alicia Castro (who was formerly ambassador to Venezuela and is known to have been close to Chávez) stated from Britain that Chávez “will continue to play a highly important role in South American unity. Chávez was a leader who was indignant against injustice, intolerant toward inequality and who reported the causes of poverty”.
Early Wednesday Cristina Fernandez together with Uruguay’s Mujica and Dilma Rousseff from Brazil released a statement expressing their ‘deep regret’ adding that ‘the best form of tribute to (Chavez) would be to preserve his legacy, activism and commitment to the regional integration project”.
“Men as Chavez don’t die, they sow. One of the great merits of Hugo was to crack a mental and cultural structure of many compatriots who believed another Venezuela was not possible”, said the Argentine president after meeting with the Chavez family.
“The massive demonstration and grief from the people only ratifies the historic leadership of Chavez in his country and in the region”, added Cristina Fernandez, adding that his great legacy for the region was “unity”.
Paraphrasing the official communiqué of 1952, when the death of Evita Peron in Argentina which also saw hundreds of thousands turn to the streets to cry and mourn the ‘the protector of the poor’, Cristina Fernandez said that “Comandante Chavez, the companion and friend, has entered history”.
The decree establishing three days mourning and flags at half mast published in the Argentine gazette and which was signed before Cristina Fernandez left on Tuesday for Caracas, the introduction reads that “with the arrival of Hugo Chavez to the (presidential) palace of Miraflores and Nestor Kirchner to the Casa Rosada in 2003, an unprecedented historic era of close links between the two countries was opened”.
Late Thursday evening, Venezuelan authorities confirmed the arrival of Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff; Cuban president Raul Castro; Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa as well as representatives from multilateral organizations from the region such as OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza; ECLAC Alicia Bárcena and the Inter American Development bank president Luis Alberto Moreno, among others.