US flag at half staff to honor Chavez at Citgo headquarters

Citgo's US operations based in Houston

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HOUSTON - United States flags are normally lowered to half staff when one of the country's leaders dies, but a Venezuela-based company lowered it when Hugo Chavez died.

On Wednesday, all of the flags outside Citgo's United States headquarters in Houston were at half staff. That included the United States and Texas flags.

The company said the flags were lowered to honor Chavez, who died on Tuesday.

"We at CITGO Petroleum Corporation are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of Venezuela in this time of grief," a statement from the company read.

Some residents said they were appalled by the action.

"Since Chavez was not an American diplomat, the American flag should be at the regular stage," Peter Patel said.

Chavez, who was the president of Venezuela, was not a friend to the United States.

Some people said they weren't bothered by the American flag being lowered for Chavez.

"They are their own country and we really should think that we're superior in any way, even if we don't have a good relationship with them," Houstonian Elvis Escobar said.

Chavez's inner circle has long claimed the United States was behind a failed 2002 attempt to overthrow him, and he frequently played the anti-American card to stir up support. Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010 and expelled another U.S. military officer in 2006.

In a 2006 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Chavez called President George W. Bush the devil, saying the podium reeked of sulfur after Bush's address.

A state funeral will be held for Chavez on Friday. Elections to choose a new president will be held within 30 days.

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