7 Mar 2013

Seven days of mourning for Chavez

2:47 pm on 7 March 2013

Seven days of national mourning have begun for President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who died on Tuesday.

A state funeral will be held on Friday. Meanwhile he is lying in state at a military academy. Mr

Chavez served 14 years as president.

Latin American leaders began arriving in Caracas on Wednesday to pay their respects - among them President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Ecuador declared three days of official mourning and Iran announced a day of mourning.

The BBC reports military cannon will be fired each hour until he is buried. All schools and universities are shut for the week.

Mr Chavez, 58, died of cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2011. His illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected for a fourth term in October.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency until an election is called within 30 days.

The exact nature of his cancer was never officially disclosed and Mr Chavez had not been seen in public for several months.

He underwent surgery and chemotherapy in 2011 and a further operation in February 2012. A fourth operation was performed in December. All the treatment was performed in Cuba.

A self-proclaimed socialist and revolutionary, Chavez won enduring support among the poor and repeated election victories by using Venezuela's oil wealth to pursue socialist policies.

A staunch critic of the United States, he inspired a left-wing revival across Latin America.