On Friday, the official funeral for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez will take place.
Leaders from five continents are on hand to say their goodbyes as thousands of followers of the leader lined up to catch a glimpse of his casket. Venezuela announced Thursday that it would embalm his body and put it on permanent display.
The last of what the Venezuelan government says are more than 30 heads of state arrived for the funeral early Friday. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad touched down after 1 a.m. and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera landed around dawn.
“It is a great pain for us because we have lost a friend,” Ahmadinejad said upon his arrival. “I feel like I have lost myself, but I am sure that he still lives. Chavez will never die. His spirit and soul live on in each of our hearts.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, represented the United States, which Chavez often portrayed as a great global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year.
The government has given little details about the funeral and also told national and international media that there will be no access.
Following the funeral, National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello was to swear in Vice President Nicolas Maduro as interim president, as Chavez desired, despite complaints by the opposition that Cabello is the rightful holder of that post under the constitution. The swearing in will be the official end of Chavez’s era.