Hugo Chavez's coffin set off in a procession



Zeenews Bureau

Caracas: After mourning the demise of Hugo Chavez, thousands came out on the street to pay their last respect to the Venezuelan leader as Chavez's coffin set off in a procession.

Hugo Chavez died of cancer at the age of 58, and many leaders from around the world sent their condolences.

Chavez was seen as a hero by some for his socialist programs, his anti-U.S. rhetoric and gifts of cut-rate oil. Others considered him a bully who repressed his opponents.

Chavez pulled Venezuela out of America's sphere of influence and embraced Washington's rivals including Cuba, Iran and Russia. Officials in all three countries had effusive praise for the late leader.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro's government declared two days of national mourning and ordered flags to fly at half-staff.

Across Latin American, grief-stricken supporters lit candles, waved Venezuelan flags or brandished portraits of the late leader in solidarity with mourners in Venezuela.

In the United States, Obama issued a statement reaffirming Washington's support for the "Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government."

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez declared three days of mourning nationwide. She and President Jose Mujica of neighboring Uruguay prepared to travel to Venezuela for the funeral.

There was no shortage of emotional farewells to a socialist hero who some feel rivaled the revolutionaries of the 1960s.

Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez, whose ode to revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara became famous, used the song's title words to bid farewell to Chavez on his blog.

"Hasta siempre, comandante," he wrote, Spanish for "Farewell forever, commander."

(With inputs from agencies)