Hugo Chavez funeral attended by more than 30 heads of state
Leaders from Latin America and beyond are gathering in Caracas for the state funeral of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
After the funeral, Hugo Chavez’s body will be taken to a military museum to lie in state for another seven days.
More than two million mourners have already filed past his body at a military academy.
Hugo Chavez’s body is to be embalmed and placed on permanent display, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro says.
Later on Friday, Nicolas Maduro is due to be sworn in as acting president. As such, he must call elections within 30 days.
Hugo Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, died on Tuesday aged 58 after a long battle with cancer.
More than 30 heads of state are expected to attend Friday’s funeral including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Cuban President Raul Castro and Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has praised Hugo Chavez as a “martyr” and a “wise and revolutionary leader”.
Meanwhile, President Sebastian Pinera of Chile arrived at Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas early on Friday, telling reporters that the thoughts of Chile were with Venezuela at a difficult time.
US Congressman Gregory Meeks and former Congressman William Delahunt will represent the United States at the funeral of Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of Washington.
Nicolas Maduro said that Hugo Chavez’s body would be embalmed “like Lenin and Mao Zedong”, and put on display for at least another seven days.
The body will be moved to the Caracas military museum where in 1992 Hugo Chavez – as an army officer – was captured after leading a failed coup.
Nicolas Maduro said the building would be converted into a new “museum of the revolution”.
Hugo Chavez’s supporters want him eventually interred in Venezuela’s national Pantheon alongside Simon Bolivar, the 19th Century independence leader the late president claimed as his political inspiration.
However, Venezuela’s constitution says people can only be admitted to the Pantheon 25 years after their death.
Hugo Chavez named Nicolas Maduro as his preferred successor following the recurrence of his cancer.
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