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Chavez laid to rest after final Caracas tour

Hundreds of thousands throng streets as late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is entombed after embalming is ruled out.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2013 01:55

Late president Hugo Chavez was laid to rest at the headquarters of his failed 1992 coup attempt, a month before snap elections to pick his successor.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans thronged the streets of Caracas on Friday to bid a final farewell to the man who ruled the oil-rich South American country for 14 years.

"I pledge allegiance in this life and what we are bringing to this command post is a Christian leader and the commander in chief of the Venezuelan armed forces," Chavez's handpicked heir acting President Nicolas Maduro exclaimed.

 

Friends and family joined high-ranking government and army officials in surrounding the coffin draped with a Venezuelan flag as Chavez was entombed.

Official television coverage, streaming the processions throughout the day, cut the footage just as Chavez was set to be laid to rest.

The army barracks-turned-museum will open to the public from Saturday and the government expects the mausoleum to become a "place of pilgrimage for the world's revolutionaries."

Earlier, a black hearse loaded with the casket made its entrance through the gates of the barracks, and several senior military commanders carried the coffin down a red carpet.

Last respects

Chavez succumbed to cancer on March 5 at age 58, plunging a deeply polarised Venezuela into mourning amid growing uncertainty over its future.

The funeral procession had started two hours earlier, after a mass and a solemn ceremony in the courtyard of the military academy, which for nine days and nights saw throngs of Venezuelans come pay their last respects.

The "comandante' was laid out in an olive green uniform and wore his trademark red beret.

His daughter Maria Gabriela, donning dark glasses, broke through the applause to thank her father for "giving us the homeland back" and promised to defend his legacy, as Chavez's mother wept incessantly.

After a mass, the casket was loaded into a black hearse for the 12km procession by foot, motorcycle, car, jeep and on
horseback to the barracks.

Huge crowds of hundreds of thousands of supporters, many sporting red shirts bearing Chavez's likeness, watched as the hearse, flanked by riders in ceremonial red military uniforms on horseback, made its way slowly down the Paseo de los Proceres, a boulevard honoring the country's founders.

Embalming ruled out

Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said the government had scrapped plans to embalm Chavez "like Lenin" and put him on permanent public view.

"We have ruled out the option of embalming the body of comandante Chavez after a Russian medical commission report," that determined the procedure would require the body to be sent to Russia and stay there for at least seven months, Villegas wrote on Twitter.

Some have also suggested that Chavez be buried in the National Pantheon next to South American independence leader Simon Bolivar, Chavez's personal hero and the inspiration of his leftist movement.

On Tuesday, the ruling party postponed debate in parliament on a constitutional amendment that would make this possible without waiting 25 years.

Venezuelans will vote for a new president on April 14.

In the running are Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor, and opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez beat in October elections.

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Source:
Agencies
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