CARACAS – The body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is lying in state at the military academy in Caracas.
His family and close advisers, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, paid their respects next to his open coffin yesterday.
Chavez died aged 58 after suffering from cancer for nearly two years.
Hundreds of thousands of people earlier took to the streets of the capital to pay tribute as a hearse carrying his coffin took hours to reach the academy.
The state funeral for Chavez is due to take place tomorrow.
The head of the presidential guard was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that he had been with Chavez when he died.
General Jose Ornella said Chavez had died of a massive heart attack, and in his final moments had said he wanted to carry on living.
“He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips: ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die’,” said Ornella, according to AP.
Chavez supporters gathered in Caracas yesterday to catch a glimpse of his coffin as it was driven through the streets from the military hospital where he died on Tuesday to the military academy, where he will lie in state.
Mourners, many wearing red T-shirts and carrying pictures of Chavez, threw flowers at the coffin, which was draped in a Venezuelan flag.
Many Chavez supporters thank him for changing their lives.
One supporter at the procession, Maria Alexandra, said: “After Jesus Christ, there’s Hugo Chavez. Before him, the government didn’t take care about us. Now children have everything.”
The coffin was greeted with sustained applause as it arrived at the military academy.
Chavez’s family and the Latin American leaders later attended Mass at the academy’s chapel, where he will lie in state in an open coffin.
Afterwards, his mother and children gathered around the coffin to pay their respects. Then, military commanders and members of his cabinet took their turns to file past before the chapel was opened to the public. (BBC)