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33 heads of state to attend Chavez's funeral

Updated: 2013-03-08 10:03
( Xinhua)

33 heads of state to attend Chavez's funeral

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez (L), her Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica (2nd L) and her Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales (3rd L) stand next to the coffin of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during a wake at the military academy in Caracas March 6, 2013, in this picture provided by the Miraflores Palace. [Photo/Agencies]

CARACAS - Thursday continued to see the domestic and international mourning for late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

A total of 33 heads of state and 55 high-level international delegations from 54 countries and regions have so far confirmed to attend the state funeral of the late president, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

Jaua said via the state-run television channel VTV that representatives of regional blocs, such as Latin American Integration Association, the Southern Common Market and the Organization of American States, were also expected to attend the funeral, to be held at 11 am (1500 GMT) Friday.

Most of the attendees will begin to arrive here late Thursday afternoon, he said.

Jaua lauded the presence of international leaders at the upcoming funeral as an example "of the magnitude of affection and love that commander Hugo Chavez managed to cultivate" and a testimony of the importance of his political leadership.

The Venezuelan government has received condolences messages from 42 countries, of which 15 have decreed "unprecedented" national mourning, Jaua noted, saying his country was grateful for their "homage to a man who fought for peace in the world".

Zhang Pin, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, will attend the funeral as the special envoy of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Also on Thursday, Venezuelan Acting President Nicolas Maduro said that Chavez's body will be preserved and permanently displayed inside a glass case in the Museum of the Revolution, after being kept in the Military Academy for "at least seven days so that people can see it".

He did not rule out the possibility of changing laws so that Chavez could be buried in the National Pantheon, a building reserved for Venezuelan independence heroes such as Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose de Sucre.

Meanwhile, streets of Caracas "have been flooded with more than two million people queuing over seven kilometers to express their love" for Chavez, said Venezuelan communication and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas Thursday.

The minister added that the Venezuelans have demonstrated their loyalty to the late president, vowing to continue Chavez's legacy "for years and decades to come".

Outside Venezuela, Chavez was also honored in Cuba, where a thousands-participated national parade was held in the capital city Havana to pay tribute to him, who is also the island's biggest ally for the last 14 years.

Cuban President Raul Castro, one of the first foreign leaders to honor the deceased president after he died, appeared in the parade and placed a white rose before Chavez's portrait at the Memorial Jose Marti in Havana, official TV reported.

Castro later flied to Caracas for the funeral of Chevez, who died as an "unbeaten, invincible and victorious" soldier and will be remembered in the history of Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America as a whole, the Cuban leader said in his first public statements after Chavez's passing away.

Also in Cuba, the delegation from the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also paid their homage at the memorial.

FARC praised Chavez for making it possible to restart a political dialogue between guerrillas and the Colombian government, which would hopefully end the 50-year-long armed conflict in the country.

Chavez, who was re-elected president on October 7, 2012, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.