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Latin America in mourning over Hugo Chavez death

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro consoles a supporter of deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, as his coffin is driven through the streets of Caracas, March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
The online news portal of TV5

BRASILIA - Several Latin American leaders declared three days of national mourning Wednesday over the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was widely praised as a strong leader who had worked to unify the region.

In Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff declared three days of mourning and planned to travel to Caracas for Chavez's funeral, her office said Wednesday.

A press aide said Rousseff would head for the Venezuelan capital late Thursday to join other world leaders expected to attend Friday's state funeral.

Presidents Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Jose Mujica of Uruguay are already in Venezuela.

"We recognize a great leader, an irreparable loss and above all, a friend of Brazil, a friend of the Brazilian people," Rousseff said Tuesday in reaction to Chavez's death.

Chavez, 58, died after a long battle with cancer, plunging Venezuela into an uncertain future after 14 years of rule by the charismatic former paratrooper, a standard-bearer of Latin America's "anti-imperialist" left.

Cuba, where Chavez underwent cancer treatment, also declared three days of mourning for the communist-ruled nation's closest regional ally and main economic support.

Authorities called on the Cuban people to give Chavez a massive sendoff similar to that accorded to historic national leaders, with a "posthumous tribute" on the country's main public squares Thursday.

"In the midst of the deep grief and dismay caused by the death of dear president Hugo Chavez, our people will Thursday from 8 am to 8 pm pay a patriotic tribute to the beloved leader of the Bolivarian revolution," the Cuban government said in a statement.

Cuban flags were flying at half-mast on all public buildings.

Uruguay also declared three days of national mourning, with national flags flying at half-mast on all public buildings and embassies abroad until Friday.

"We lost a friend of immeasurable dimensions," Mujica said before departing.

"I have confidence in the Venezuelan people, the government and the strength of this democracy of which my friend Chavez was a great builder."

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera also declared three days of national mourning and confirmed Wednesday that he too would be traveling to Caracas for the funeral.

"I will travel Friday to be with the Venezuelan government and people along with other world and Latin American leaders to pay tribute to the late president Hugo Chavez," Pinera told the media.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who had cultivated recent improved ties with Venezuela, after years of tense bilateral relations, called Chavez's death "a great loss for Venezuela and the region, for Colombia and for me personally."

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa echoed those sentiments, saying Chavez's death was "an irreparable loss" for Latin America.