Hugo Chavez Lies In State With Open Casket

Caracas, Venezuela — Hugo Chavez is lying in state in an open casket at the military academy in Caracas as his family, close advisers, and other world leaders pay their respects.

The Venezuelan president passed away on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. He went to Cuba for his fourth cancer surgery in December, which he never recovered from.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to pay their respects to Hugo Chavez as his coffin made its way to the military academy. Men and women were seen crying as the casket passed by them. The hearse took hours to reach the academy.

A state funeral for the 58-year-old president will be held on Friday. Chavez’ supporters wore red T-shirts and carried pictures of Hugo as they watched the procession. They threw flowers at the flag-draped coffin as it passed them by.

Along with his family and close advisers, the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, and Uraguay also paid their respects as Hugo Chavez lay in state.

The late president’s hand-picked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, walked beside the hearse as it wove through the city’s streets. Maduro was also accompanied by Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. Soldiers removed the flowers and mementos from the casket when it arrived at the academy.

The coffin was taken inside and placed half-opened in a hall, where Chavez’s three daughters and one son, Huguito, surrounded it. People chanted, “Chavez lives, the struggle goes on.” The death of Chavez, around whom an entire political movement was built, was a blow to the president’s supporters.

Venezuela’s constitution requires a presidential election within 30 days of a leader’s death. The government announced it will stick to that timetable. It is likely that Vice President Maduro will take Chavez’s place, though there is no guarantee he will win. He is expected to face opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was beaten in the October election by Chavez.

Hugo Chavez’s body will lie in state until Friday’s funeral. Meanwhile, the chapel where his body lies is open to the public.

[Image by José Cruz/ABr (Agência Brasil – Foto no:130922 [1]) [CC-BY-3.0-br], via Wikimedia Commons]