Caracas, Mar 9: Cuban President Raul Castro and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were among the over 30 heads of state and government who paid their last respects to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at the military academy here on Friday.
The state funeral for the departed leader of the oil-rich nation was attended by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Spain's Prince Felipe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Hollywood actor Sean Penn. Rulers of African and Caribbean nations also bid a tearful farewell to Chavez.
After Nicolas Maduro who served as vice president under Chavez placed a replica of Hispanic American independence hero Simon Bolivar's golden sword on the wooden casket containing his mentor's mortal remains, representatives from Latin American countries including Raul Castro were invited to stand around the flag-covered coffin.
Ahmadinejad and Lukashenko also stood on either side of the 58-year-old who had allied with them against the United States. The duo were seen wiping away tears as an orchestra played a sentimental song that was Chavez's favorite.
Ahmadinejad comforted Chavez's mother Elena Frias after she broke down while standing near the coffin of her son.
Paying tribute to Chavez, his political heir said: "There you
are, undefeated, pure, transparent, unique, true, alive forever." Maduro added: "Mission accomplished comandante! The struggle goes
At the end of the lavish funeral ceremony, Maduro handed over the replica of Bolivar's sword to the family members of Chavez.
Later in the day, Maduro took the oath of office to become the acting president of Venezuela. "I swear in the name of absolute loyalty to Comandante Hugo Chavez that we will obey and defend this Bolivarian Constitution with the hard hand of the free people," he said at the National Assembly.
However, opposition parties protested that his inauguration was unconstitutional. In their opinion, the speaker of the National Assembly should have been sworn in as the acting president instead of Maduro.