Following the ideals of his hero, Simon Bolivar, President Hugo Chávez Friás long had a grand vision of a Bolivarian unity among the countries of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. His long serving foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, now acting president of Venezuela, was the person who brought that vision to material reality. In so doing, they may have walked off with some prime real estate — the U.S.’s own backyard.
As a reported two million people lined the streets to accompany the body of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez Friás, to the Military Academy in Caracas where likely millions more stood in line for hours, if not days, to view his face one last time. Fifty-four international delegations, political leaders and heads of state arrived in Venezuela to attend the official state ceremony for the deceased president, 15 of whose countries had declared official days of mourning for him at home. They were greeted by then vice president and now Acting President Nicolas Maduro.
The South, Central American and Caribbean countries in attendance gave witness to the impact the Chavez Administration has had on forging unity among them.
Representatives of the more than 33 countries belonging to MERCOSUR, UNOSUR, ALBA and CELAC appeared and credited Chavez’s vision and energy with establishing the equivalent of a new regional union, modeled after the European Union, south of the U.S. border, in what the U.S. formerly regarded as virtually its own territory.