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Thousands Line The Streets Of Caracas, Paying Respects To Hugo Chávez
Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 6:16 pm
A coffin holding the body of Hugo Chávez moved through the streets of Caracas, today.
The 58-year-old leader died yesterday after a battle with cancer. The flag-draped casket was moved from the military hospital where Chávez died to a military academy, where he will lie in state. The whole way there, his casket was flanked by thousands of adoring supporters dressed in red and waving the tri-colored Venezuelan flag.
"Chávez, you have not died, you are with us," one mourner told state television. One after the other, they addressed the camera saying that they loved him and that their souls were beset by a great pain.
"The struggle continues," another mourner said.
"People dressed in black wailed in grief as the procession passed by.
"As mourners took to the streets for a second day, the message many of them repeated was that they would continue to follow Chavez's path – to ensure that Venezuela remained a socialist state. His followers remained keenly aware that their leader, in his last speech to the country on Dec. 8, seated at a table with a large portrait of Bolivar behind him, directed Venezuelans to vote for Vice President Nicolas Maduro should his presidency be cut short."
USA Today reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chávez's closest allies, walked alongside the casket.
"Loudspeakers placed along the route blasted Chavez's words and Venezuelan folk music," the paper reports.
"I feel such big pain I can't even speak," Yamilina Barrios told the AP. "He was the best thing the country had ... I adore him. Let's hope the country calms down and we can continue the tasks he left us."
Nancy Jotiya, 56, said: "He was our father. 'Chavismo' will not end. We are his people. We will continue to fight!"
The BBC reports that foreign heads of states have begun arriving in Caracas. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared a day of mourning and called Chávez a "martyr."
"Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Vice President Nicolas Maduro will remain in power, even though the country´s constitution says that the head of the National Assembly should assume power until elections are held.
"That announcement generated controversy even among Chavez loyalists. National Assembly Deputy Fernando Soto told El Universal that the assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, should have been appointed. Chavez announced in December that Maduro should succeed him."
It's expected that the opposition will support Henrique Capriles Radonski, who ran against Chávez last year and received about 45 percent of the popular vote.
Maduro, adds USA Today, "a former bus driver and ardent Communist supporter of Chavez, may not have the same hold on government supporters as did Chavez."
TeleSur, a news outlet funded by leftist Latin American governments, posted this video of the procession: