At the funeral ceremony of President Hugo Chavez, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro laid a replica of the sword of 19th century independence leader Simon Bolivar on top of the coffin.
It was one of several moments rich in symbolism as representatives and heads of states paid homage to Chavez who died on Tuesday after a prolonged battle with cancer.
A series of guards of honours were formed as guests were called to stand beside the coffin. Each time a minutes silence was observed before spontaneous applause rippled through the gathering.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Cuba’s Raul Castro joined about 30 other heads of state. A message was read out from Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Thousands gathered in silence outside the ceremony watching the service on big screens.
Ahmadinejad received a standing ovation as he took his place in a guard of honour. He broke protocol to touch the casket and clench his fist in a revolutionary salute.
During the religious element of the ceremony the civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson spoke. He called for the “breach” between the US and Venezuela to be healed. “Let’s redeem and move on to a higher ground,” he said.
In an emotional and at times combative speech Nicolas Maduro held up a small blue book to proclaim it was the constitution of Venezuela. He said that was the legacy of President Hugo Chavez.
The national anthem was played by the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, directed by the acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel.