Funeral for Chavez under way in Caracas

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Associated Press

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:05 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — World leaders, athletes and left-wing celebrities are among those attending today's funeral in Caracas for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

As the funeral got under way, a line of people who were still waiting to see Chavez's body stretched for a mile and a half.

The funeral at a military academy where Chavez has been lying in state began with Venezuela's national youth orchestra performing the national anthem. In the streets outside, there was a carnival atmosphere, with military bands launching into marches. Crowds of supporters wore the red of Chavez's socialist party. They watched the ceremony on huge monitors under a blazing sun.

Inside the funeral hall, more than 30 political leaders stood at attention in front of the flag-draped coffin. They included Cuba's Raul Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Many of them were welcomed by Nicolas Maduro. He's the vice president who will be sworn in later today as interim president. That event will be boycotted by the country's opposition, which says it is unconstitutional.

The United States is represented by congressman Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Democratic congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was invited to speak. TV cameras also captured actor Sean Penn in attendance.

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182-c-21-(Frank Bajak (BY'-ak), AP correspondent)-"constitution for that"-AP correspondent Frank Bajak reports Chavez's anointed interim successor is to be sworn in after the funeral amid criticism that he has no right to the job. (8 Mar 2013)

<<CUT *182 (03/08/13)>> 00:21 "constitution for that"

180-c-15-(Frank Bajak (BY'-ak), AP correspondent)-"so many people"-AP correspondent Frank Bajak reports the usually traffic-choked streets of Caracas are empty as Venezuelans line up outside a military venue where President Chavez's body has lain in state. (8 Mar 2013)

<<CUT *180 (03/08/13)>> 00:15 "so many people"

APPHOTO XRM127: People stand out the military academy during the funeral ceremony for Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 8, 2013. Chavez died on March 5 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.  He was 58. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) (8 Mar 2013)

<<APPHOTO XRM127 (03/08/13)>>

APPHOTO XRM128: People sleep outside the military academy where a funeral ceremony will take place for Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, early Friday, March 8, 2013. Chavez died on March 5 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.  He was 58. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) (8 Mar 2013)

<<APPHOTO XRM128 (03/08/13)>>

APPHOTO XRM106: In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Cuba's President Raul Castro salutes as he stands next to the coffin containing the remains of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez, during his wake at a military academy where his body will lie in state until his funeral, in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 7, 2013. At right is Chavez's daughter Rosa Virginia Chavez and left is Vice-President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office) (7 Mar 2013)

<<APPHOTO XRM106 (03/07/13)>>

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