CARACAS - At least two dozen heads of state were due to attend Hugo Chavez's funeral on Friday during an outpouring of grief for the charismatic but divisive Venezuelan leader who changed the face of politics in South America.

Chavez died on Tuesday at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer, devastating millions of mostly poor supporters who loved him for putting the country's vast oil wealth at their service, but giving hope to opponents who denounced him as a dictator.

Huge crowds of "Chavistas," many carrying his picture or wearing T-shirts bearing the image of his eyes, have swamped the plazas around a military academy where his coffin was carried after being paraded through the streets.

"A thousand thanks for the posthumous tributes to a man who fought for world peace, for unity in Latin America and the Caribbean, and for the democratization of global institutions," Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

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