Ahmadinejad to Attend Funeral of Friend Chavez

Iran's President travels to Caracas for the funeral of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Elad Benari ,

Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
AFP photo

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was travelling to Caracas on Thursday for the funeral of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, state television reported.

Ahmadinejad "will shortly leave Tehran for Venezuela to attend the funeral" of Chavez who died on Tuesday, the broadcaster announced in the early afternoon, according to AFP.

Friday's funeral of the Venezuelan president will be attended by several heads of state from Latin America and wider afield. On Thursday, mourners filed past his open casket as he lay in state in the capital.

Ahmadinejad on Wednesday paid tribute to his close ally for "serving the people of Venezuela and defending human and revolutionary values."

"Venezuela lost its brave, strong son and the world lost a wise and revolutionary leader," he added.

Tehran decreed a day of national mourning on Wednesday.

Venezuela is the Islamic Republic's main ally in Latin America. Both countries are open in their hostility to the United States, and Tehran and Caracas have forged strong economic and political ties.

Chavez visited Tehran 13 times since his rise to power in 1999, and Ahmadinejad has himself been to Venezuela six times after he became Iran's president in 2005.

Chavez succumbed to cancer at the age of 58 on Tuesday, after months of treatments in Cuba.

Syrian state media paid tribute to the late Venezuelan leader on Wednesday, saying he had taken an "honorable" position on the two-year-old uprising against the Damascus regime.

Anti-Semitism in Venezuela sky-rocketed in recent years, resulting in a dramatic reduction in Jewish population. Before Chavez came to power, the Jewish community amounted to approximately 30,000, while today its numbers reach a mere 9,000.

Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism noted in September that Venezuela has witnessed a rise in  “anti-Semitic manifestations, including vandalism, media attacks, caricatures, and physical attacks on Venezuelan Jewish institutions."