Dignitaries from around the world paid their respects to former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his funeral ceremony as thousands of his supporters gathered to see the remains of the "revolutionary" leader kept in state in the military museum.
More than 30 heads of state and many other diplomats from Americas and around the world were present for the event that has captured much world attention and left leaders wondering about their future with the country that has long been a major adversary to an "imperialist" policy of the U.S. and its allies.
World leaders who were present were called in groups to stand beside the president's casket and observe a moment of silence to honor the socialist leader. Among others, personalities like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hollywood actor Sean Penn bid farewell to the leader whose Bolivarian principles invited supporters and denouncers from world politics in equal measure.
A martyr for some, a dictator for others, the well-known Venezuelan figure died Tuesday aged 58 after a rigorous battle against his cancer for two years. While his death has given hopes to many of his foes who decried his socialist viewpoint as a challenge against well-established democracy in the American continent, supporters including his to-be successor glorified his visions and envisaged to sustain a heritage of the "21st Century Socialism" that Chavez left behind.
"He left us the task of continuing to build this democratic socialist model that he began. He left everything arranged for us. Now it is on us if we do it or not. We call on the people to do it," acting President Nicolas Maduro said addressing a swarm of emotional mourners at an event that was televised live.
Maduro was formally sworn in as acting president later Friday as some opposition members boycotted the swearing-in while many residents in Caracas banged pots and pans in protest against the "unconstitutional" swearing in, Reuters has reported.
Maduro said that he had asked election committee to call for a vote immediately as he announced Chavez's son-in-law Jorge Arreaza as his vice president.
Earlier in the historic museum, he led the funeral of the late president leaving the mourners in silence as he delivered an emotional speech.
"Commander, here you are undefeated, pure, living for all time," the preferred successor of Chavez said in a voice that cracked with sentiments.
"Your soul and spirit are so powerful that your body could not hold them, and now they are travelling this universe, growing with blessings and love," he added
The impassioned mourners chanted, "Chavez lives! The fight continues!"
Similar to what was done to the remains of Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the late president's body will be embalmed and displayed "for eternity" in the Museum of the Revolution.
The body will be kept in state for another seven days which will allow millions of other "Chavistas" to pay their last respects to a man who will be remembered as one of world's most loved and despised leaders.
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