Victorin Lurel described Chavez as a cross between French General Charles de Gaulle and reforming left-winger Léon Blum, who served three times as French prime minister.

“De Gaulle because he profoundly changed his country’s institutions, and Blum because he fought relentlessly against injustice,” he told RTL radio.

“I’ll be criticised for saying this, but the world needs more dictators like Hugo Chavez, if it’s a dictator that he actually was. He showed a strong respect for human rights.”

Lurel described Chavez’s funeral service as “moving”, adding that “while not everyone can agree with all his policies and actions, the people here are very proud of what he accomplished in 14 years.”