9 Mar 2013

Venezuela swears in acting president

3:49 pm on 9 March 2013

Venezuela's former vice-president Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as acting president hours after the state funeral of Hugo Chavez.

The ceremony was led by National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello in the capital, Caracas.

Mr Chavez, who died on 5 March after a long battle with cancer, had named Mr Maduro as his chosen successor.

However, the main opposition coalition boycotted Mr Maduro's swearing-in, saying that it was unconstitutional.

It argues that - under the constitution - the speaker of the National Assembly should be the one to take over as acting president.

The opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, called the move fraudulent.

After swearing in Mr Maduro, Mr Cabello said: "Venezuela will follow the route to socialism."

As acting president, Mr Maduro is expected to call elections within 30 days.

Huge crowds at Chavez funeral

More than 30 heads of state from around the world have attended the funeral of President Hugo Chavez in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

Huge crowds assembled early on Friday for the ceremony outside the military academy where his body has been lying in state.

The Venezuelan leader died on Tuesday at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

More than two million people have filed past his coffin, and his body is to be embalmed and put on permanent display, the BBC reports.

His body will be moved to the Caracas military museum where in 1992 Mr Chavez - as an army officer - was captured after leading a failed coup.

Leaders from Latin America and beyond have been arriving at the military academy for the start of the funeral, among them Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.

The United States, fiercely criticised by Mr Chavez, is represented by two congressmen.

Vice-president Nicolas Maduro began the funeral ceremony by laying on Mr Chavez's coffin the sword of Simon Bolivar - the 19th-Century independence leader he claimed as his inspiration.

He told mourners that the late leader, who died after battling cancer, had taught Venezuelans to love their history. "The humble, the poor, the oppressed - we are his living testimony."