Maradona visits barracks where Chavez's body lies, seeks votes for Maduro

Caracas, Apr 13 (EFE).- Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona visited the army barracks in Caracas where the remains of Hugo Chavez lie and urged people to vote for ruling-party candidate Nicolas Maduro in Sunday's presidential election.

Accompanied by Maduro, Maradona paid homage to the late president Friday and attended the 21-gun salute that is repeated there every day at 4:25 p.m., the time when the Venezuelan leader died on March 5.

"What I remember about Hugo was a great friendship, an incredible political wisdom. Hugo Chavez has changed Latin America's way of thinking. We had surrendered to the United States and he put it in our heads that we can go forward on our own," he said on the state television channel.

Maradona said that Chavez's death signified "an enormous loss" for him and apologized for not attending his funeral.

Chavez and Maradona were very close, united by their rejection of the United States and what they called its "imperialist policies."

On a visit to Caracas to lend his support for the ruling party candidate, Maradona said that Maduro represents the best choice to succeed Chavez.

"With Maduro we're going to follow the same line of not letting anyone walk all over us. People at the polls on Sunday must reaffirm the concepts of Chavez through Nicolas," he said.

Maduro recalled that Maradona "was very fond of Chavez and Chavez was equally fond of him." Also taking part in the event, held at the so-called Barracks on the Mountain in western Caracas, were Chavez's eldest daughter and his second wife, Maria Isabel Rodriguez.

The former soccer star accompanied Maduro Thursday at the closure of his campaign for the April 14 election, for which almost 19 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote for the man who will be their president for the next six years.