9 Mar 2013

PM defends decision not to attend Chavez funeral

12:35 pm on 9 March 2013

Prime Minister John Key has defended his decision not to attend the funeral of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez despite being in Latin America.

Mr Chavez died on Tuesday after a battle with cancer, and his funeral was held on Friday in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

Mr Key is in Chile on the latest stop of his 10-day tour of Latin America and said the nearest New Zealand ambassador will go to the funeral on the country's behalf.

He said a prime minister would not normally attend the funeral of a leader from a country it does not have close political ties with.

"I would have had to change my schedule here in Latin America and I don't think that really would have made sense so I'm convinced we made the right call."

Flags on all Government and public buildings in New Zealand have been lowered to half-mast at the request of the Prime Minister to mark the funeral.

Mr Key's office says lowering flags is standard practice for the death of heads states of any foreign country.