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Wednesday
Mar062013

Hugo Chavez Mourned by Sea of Venezuelans

JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- The streets of Caracas were a sea of red Wednesday as Venezuelans wearing the colors of Hugo Chavez's political party flooded the capital as Chavez's coffin was carried through the streets.

Chavez, who was 58, died Tuesday after ruling the oil rich country for 14 years and becoming one of the U.S.'s most vocal critics.

Wednesday’s display of grief, with some people crying and many holding "Viva Chavez" banners, marks the beginning of seven days of mourning, and an uncertain future for the country.

The first order of business will be to fill the shoes of Chavez, although even in death the country's longtime leader's orders are being followed. The man he anointed to succeed him, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, will continue to run Venezuela as interim president and be the governing socialists' candidate in an election to be called within a month.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in the October presidential election and is widely expected to be the opposition's candidate to oppose Maduro, has been bitterly feuding with Maduro and other Chavez loyalists who accused him of conspiring with far-right U.S. forces to undermine the regime.

Late Tuesday, Maduro expelled two American military attaches from the country, accusing them of trying to "destabilize" the army. Ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) says he's not happy the Venezuelan government expelled the two attaches before announcing Chavez's death.

"Obviously it's not a hopeful sign if we are looking to improve relations. I think some of the old guard will probably want to continue the policies of Chavez," Engel said.

Before tearfully announcing the death of the socialist leader on state television Tuesday, Maduro hinted Chavez -- who had suffered from an undisclosed type of cancer -- had been previously poisoned by foreign elements, including the U.S., but provided no evidence.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio