World leaders gather in Caracas for Chavez funeral

CARACAS (JTA) — The heads of 55 states, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrived in Venezuela for the funeral of Hugo Chavez.

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The leaders were expected to gather Friday at the military academy for a ceremony honoring the late politician who died Tuesday at age 58.

On Thursday, Ahmadinejad sent a letter of condolence to the Venezuelan people prophesying that Chavez would be resurrected alongside Jesus and the Hidden Imam, a messianic figure in Shia Islam.

“I have no doubt he will come again along with all the righteous people and the Prophet Jesus and the only successor of the righteous generation, the perfect human,” Ahmadinejad wrote of the late Venezuelan leader, whom he once called a “kindred spirit.”

Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who arrived in Caracas on March 6, is expected to skip the event. Political analysts in Argentina say she left early to avoid meeting Ahmadinejad.

Argentina has come under intense criticism for agreeing to a joint inquiry with Iran of the 1994 deadly bombing of Buenos Aires’ AMIA Jewish community building, which Argentinean judges and leaders have blamed on Iran.

The country’s Jewish foreign minister, Hector Timerman, will represent Argentina at Chavez’s funeral.

In Caracas, schools, businesses and Jewish communal institutions were closed for the day. 

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