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Fiery funeral for Venezuela’s Chavez


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Venezuelans watched the funeral from cafes, with many saying they were flattered to be the subject of the world’s attention.

"If my Comandante was such a divisive man who fought with everyone and with other countries, wouldn’t he be alone (at his funeral)?" asked Argenis Urbina, a 51-year-old bookseller who was riveted to the coverage on TV.

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Others said they were put off by what they saw as an excess of pomp, particularly the plan to put Chavez’s body on display.

"He was a president, and I would say not a good one. Not a hero," said Gloria Ocampos, a retired office manager. "He should be buried, just like any other president. They are treating him like he was the father of the country ... It’s crazy."

Some 300 people also watched the funeral on screens set up in the Simon Bolivar plaza in Chavez’s plains hometown of Sabaneta, where people had laid out flowers, candles and photos of the late leader.

Chavez was particularly beloved by the poor, whose lot he championed. But critics say he left his successors a monumental task, with annual inflation of more than 20 percent and public debt that quadrupled to more than $100 billion. Crime is endemic and Chavez’s chaotic management style has been blamed for a breakdown in infrastructure, particularly in the key oil industry.

The government gave national and international media no direct access to the funeral, a measure of the strict control with which Chavez and his followers have ruled the country for years. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua appealed to local media not to publish critical political analyses "which could be a provocation for a pained people."

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Associated Press writers E. Eduardo Castillo, Christopher Toothaker and Paul Haven in Caracas contributed to this report.

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Vivian Sequera on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VivianSequera



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