“We have decided to prepare the body of our ComandantePresident, to embalm it so that it remains open for all time forthe people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like MaoZedong,” said Nicolas Maduro, the provisional president, onstate TV. He is Chavez’s designated successor.Chavez is to be kept in a glass casket in the museum so that hecan be seen for “eternity” and his people “will alwayshave him.”Maduro also said that the former President will lie in state forseven more days, at a military museum, so that people can continueto pay their respects to the leader. The farewell to Chavez wasextended as mourners flocked to bid farewells at the militaryacademy since Wednesday, where his glass-topped casket is currentlyon display.See more photos in RT’sGalleriesInside the casket, the former leader was wearing olive greenmilitary dress, a black tie and his signature red beret. He had ared sash across his torso, with the word ‘militia’ on it – the nameof the 120,000-strong force which he created.The government estimated the turnout figure to be around the 2million mark in a country with a population of 29 million. Manykept a nighttime vigil.Chavez’s body was transported seven hour procession on Wednesdayfrom the hospital where he died to its current resting place. Theofficial funeral is to take place on Friday, but the announcementthat he is to be embalmed came as a surprise, only hours before itwas planned to occur. Maduro said that the demand to see thedeceased leader was far too great to ignore.A reported 55 heads of state or government are due to attend,which will include Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Theservice is still expected to go ahead in Caracas, the capital, tomark the transfer of Chavez’s body, prior to the embalming.The ‘Mountain Barracks’ are where Chavez arranged a failed coupagainst then-President Carlos Andres Perez on February 4, 1994. Theslum was an area of concentrated Chavez support, and his arrest asa result of the planned coup turned him into a hero, resulting inelection victory in 1998.Maduro implied that his move there may not be permanent. Thereis widespread support for Chavez to be taken to the nationalpantheon to lie alongside Simon Bolivar, the Latin Americanindependence hero, in whose honor Chavez constructed themausoleum.Сhavez often called himself a Bolivarian patriot, and‘Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200’ was the name of thegrouping which first attempted the coup. His socialist rule lastedfor 14 years, and he played a pivotal role in re-nationalizing theoil industry.After a two-year battle with cancer, he died from a heart attackat the age of 58.“Chavez was a brave and very thorough man who was able toshowcase strong character to go through with his plans. Hegenuinely wanted to rid the country’s poor citizens of their plightand improve their lives. Chavez became the symbol of independencethroughout Latin America while he was still alive. He’s joined thelegendary ranks of Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro, and CheGuevara,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin.Fellow Latin American presidents also lauded the latepresident.“This liberation process, not only of the Venezuelan people,but also of all the Latin American peoples must continue,” saidBolivian President Evo Morales.“Chavez allowed us to restore faith in Latin America regions,so that a profound transformation in the region can be carriedout,” said President Rafael Correa of Ecuador.Maduro will be sworn in as acting president on Friday, and willlater call elections. The national electoral council will set thedate for elections, which must take place within 30 days of thepresident’s death, according to the constitution.He will go head to head with opposition leader Henrique CaprilesRadonski. However, Capriles lost to Chavez in October’spresidential polls. A further recent opinion poll hassuggested that Chavez’s anointed successor, Maduro, is likely towith the election.
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