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Supporters celebrate Chavez’s birthday

Caracas - Supporters of Venezuela's former president Hugo Chavez celebrated what would have been his 60th birthday on Monday with fireworks, a gun salute - and the unveiling of a computer font based on the late leader's handwriting.

The full-day festivities began shortly after midnight, when President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor, sang Happy Birthday and blew out candles on a cake.

"Hugo Chavez, My First Life" written by Spanish journalist and writer Ignacio Ramonet is seen on a chair during the book's launch in commemoration of the 60th birthday of late Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Havana. PIcture: Stringer. Credit: REUTERS

The leftist firebrand Chavez led Venezuela from 1999 until he died of cancer on March 5, 2013.

Maduro, speaking later on Monday in the southwestern town of Sabaneta, where Chavez was born, said “a little bird” told him the former president was “happy and loving the loyalty of his people.”

Among other homages to the populist leader, an online magazine launched a new font designed to resemble his handwriting, complete with irregular capitalisation and elongated letters.

The tributes ended with an event attended by presidents and foreign ministers of Latin American and Caribbean nations, who Tuesday are to attend a regional summit.

Chavez was a charismatic but controversial leader who promoted socialist policies, but left a politically divided country in his wake.

Maduro now faces an economic crisis, with massive shortages of basic goods, runaway inflation, and rampant crime. Opposition protests against Maduro since February have left more than 40 dead and at least 873 people injured according to the latest government tally.

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