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PHOTOS: Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Chavez

Last updated on: March 9, 2013 02:49 IST

Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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Leaders from Latin America and beyond were in Venezuela's capital Caracas for the state funeral of late president Hugo Chavez on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners attended Friday's funeral, which was to be followed by the swearing-in of his handpicked successor Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Thousands of buses brought people from all over the country to the capital, Al Jazeera reported.

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Image: Venezuela's Vice-President Nicolas Maduro presides over the funeral ceremony for Hugo Chavez at the military academy in Caracas on Friday.
Photographs: Reuters
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Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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Maduro told mourners that Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, remained "undefeated, pure, living for all time".

Chavez, who died of cancer at the age of 58 on Tuesday, will be embalmed "like Ho Chi Minh, Lenin and Mao" and kept in a glass casket to be seen "for eternity," Maduro said.

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Image: Cuba's President Raul Castro salutes the coffin of Hugo Chavez. Beside him is Chavez's daughter Rosa Virginia (R), and Venezuela's Vice-President Nicolas Maduro (2nd L) at the military academy in Caracas
Photographs: Reuters
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Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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The vice-president began the funeral ceremony by presenting Chavez's coffin with the sword of Simon Bolivar -- the 19th-Century independence leader he claimed as his inspiration, BBC reported.

In his eulogy, Maduro said no other leader had been as vilified as Chavez, but no-one had been able to stop him or his socialist "revolution". "The humble, the poor, the oppressed - we are his living testimony", Maduro said, the report added.

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Image: TV grab shows Vice President Nicolas Maduro holding a replica of the Simon Bolivar's sword as he stands over the coffin of Hugo Chavez, during the funeral at the military academy in Caracas.
Photographs: Reuters
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Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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More than 30 world leaders attended the ceremony, including Cuban President Raul Castro, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.

Ahmadinejad expressed his condolences as he arrived in Venezuela early on Friday, calling Chavez "a symbol for all those who seek justice, love and peace in the world", repeorts suggested.

A message was read out from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, BBC reported.

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Image: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pays tribute to Hugo Chavez, during the funeral service at the military academy in Caracas.
Photographs: Reuters
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Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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Ecumenical prayers were led by three religious leaders, including the American civil rights activist, Rev Jesse Jackson, who called for reconciliation between Venezuela and the US, BBC reported.

"We share the same hemisphere, we play ball together, we trade resources together, we share dreams together," he said.

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Image: Visiting heads of state stand next to the coffin of Hugo Chavez during the funeral service in Caracas on Friday
Photographs: Reuters
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Leaders join mourners to bid farewell to Hugo Chavez

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Outside, huge crowds dressed in the red sang "Chavez lives!" and "The struggle continues!"

Meanwhile, Venezuela's Supreme Court stated that Vice President Maduro became acting president the moment Hugo Chavez died, and can run for president. 

National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello had earlier announced the planned swearing-in, which the opposition says it is boycotting. In a tweet, opposition leader Henrique Capriles called Friday's court ruling "a constitutional fraud", reports stated.


Image: Supporters of Hugo Chavez hold a portrait of him near the military academy in Caracas on Friday
Photographs: Reuters
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