Caracas - Venezuela's acting president Nicolas Maduro joked on Wednesday
that late leftist president Hugo Chavez's recent death must have played into
the selection of the first Latin American pope.
"We know that our commander has risen up there and is face to face with
Christ," Maduro said, to an outburst of laughter at a political event,
just over a week after Chavez died following 14 years in charge of Venezuela.
"Something must have influenced things so that a South American pope
was chosen. Some new hand arrived and got to Christ and said: It is South
America's time. That's what I think," Maduro, Chavez' handpicked
"One of these days he is going to call a constitutional congress in
heaven to change the church in the world, so that the people, only Christ's
pure people rule in this world," he predicted.
Argentina's Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio was earlier elected Pope
Francis, becoming the first Latin American pontiff in a surprise decision that
was welcomed across the continent and cheered many who were mourning Chavez.