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World Leaders Gather for Chavez Funeral

  • VOA News

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Cuba's President Raul Castro salutes as he stands next to the coffin of Hugo Chavez at a military academy in Caracas, March 7, 2013.

In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Cuba's President Raul Castro salutes as he stands next to the coffin of Hugo Chavez at a military academy in Caracas, March 7, 2013.

Dozens of world leaders have gathered in Venezuela's capital for the state funeral of the late president Hugo Chavez.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Cuban President Raul Castro are among the leaders in Caracas for Friday's funeral. The U.S. is sending a diplomatic delegation.

The government said more than two million people have filed past the late president's open coffin since Wednesday at a military academy in Caracas.

His body will lie in state for seven more days after the funeral to accommodate the millions of Venezuelans who still want to pay their last respects to a man who will be remembered as one of the world's most colorful and controversial leaders.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro will be sworn in as acting president late Friday.

He will likely face off in elections to be called within 30 days against opposition leader Enrique Caprioles, who lost to Mr. Chavez in the October presidential polls.

Mr. Maduro has announced that Chavez will be embalmed and his body displayed forever in a Caracas military museum.

The vice president compared Chavez to other revolutionary leaders whose bodies also have been preserved, including Russia's Lenin and China's Mao.

The late president Chavez, who was 58, died Tuesday after a two-year fight against cancer. His death devastated millions of mostly poor supporters who loved him for putting the country's vast oil wealth at their service. But the death of Chavez is also giving hope to opponents who denounced him as a dictator.

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