May 23, 2013
Venezuela's Chávez to be embalmed for public view
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez will be embalmed and put on display "for eternity" at a military museum after a state funeral and an extended period of lying in state, acting President Nicolás Maduro said today.
Huge crowds are still waiting to pay their respects to Chávez after his death this week, and Maduro said the move - reminiscent of the treatment of Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin and Mao after their deaths - would help keep the late president's self-declared socialist revolution alive.
"It has been decided that the body of the comandante will be embalmed so that it remains eternally on view for the people at the museum," Maduro told state TV.
Chávez, a former paratrooper, died on Tuesday aged 58 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was president for 14 years and is now lying in state at a military academy where the government says more than 2 million supporters have viewed it since Wednesday.
Maduro said Chávez's official funeral would go ahead on Friday, attended by about 30 leaders from around the world and that his body would then lie in state for a further seven days.
Huge lines snaked around the academy today as tens of thousands of Venezuelans shuffled forward to salute, raise clenched fists or make the sign of the cross over Chávez's casket.
From soldiers in fatigues to officers in ceremonial dress, to residents of the slums where Chávez was most loved, those in line vowed to defend his legacy and back Maduro, his preferred heir, in a new election.
"I arrived in the early hours to see Chavez. He is my personal idol," said Henry Acosta, 56.
Chávez was dressed in an army uniform and a signature red beret like the one he wore in a 1992 speech to the nation that launched his political career after he led a failed coup.
People were given just a few seconds to glance at his body inside the relatively simple wooden coffin, which has a glass top and was draped in flowers and a Venezuelan flag.
One government source told Reuters that Chávez slipped into a coma on Monday and died the next day of respiratory failure after a rapid deterioration from the weekend, when he had held a five-hour meeting with ministers at his bedside.
The cancer had spread to his lungs, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.