Venezuela set to embalm Chavez 'like Lenin'
By Laurent Thomet ,AFPCARACAS -- Hugo Chavez's political heir said Thursday that the late Venezuelan president and leftist leader would be embalmed “like Lenin” and displayed in the barracks where he plotted a failed coup.
March 9, 2013, 12:09 am TWN
As hundreds of thousands of mourners streamed through the military academy where Chavez's body lies in state, officials said vice president Nicolas Maduro would be sworn-in as acting president late Friday and “call for elections.”
But as the tense political transition got under way, the farewell to Chavez was also extended, with Maduro saying the public viewing period would last at least seven more days after a state funeral with world leaders on Friday.
Chavez, a former paratrooper whose socialist revolution delighted the poor and infuriated the wealthy, will be embalmed “like Ho Chi Minh, Lenin and Mao” and kept in a glass casket to be seen “for eternity,” Maduro said.
Maduro said the body will be taken to the “Mountain Barracks” in the Jan. 23 slum that was a bastion of Chavez support, a facility that is now being converted into a Museum of the Revolution.
It was there that Chavez had spearheaded what proved to be a failed coup against president Carlos Andres Perez on Feb. 4, 1992. His arrest turned him into hero, leading to his first of many election victories in 1998.
But Maduro suggested that Chavez may one day be moved elsewhere, a nod to popular pressure for him to be taken to the national pantheon to lie alongside Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Maduro to Be Sworn In
The National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, said Maduro would be formally sworn-in as acting president at 7 p.m. (2330 GMT) after the funeral, and that he would “call for elections.”
The national electoral council is tasked with setting a date for elections, which must be called within 30 days under the constitution.
Chavez lay in a half-open, glass-covered casket in the academy's hall, wearing olive green military fatigues, a black tie and the iconic red beret that became a symbol of his 14-year socialist rule.
The government said more than two million people had come since Wednesday to get a glimpse of their hero, whose petrodollar-fueled socialism earned him friends and foes at home and abroad. Many had stood in line through the night.
“He's in there, but my comandante is immortal,” said Saul Mantano, a 49-year-old salesman with a hat emblazoned with Chavez's name and the Venezuelan flag. “I didn't want to see him dead, but it's a reality now.”
Soldiers and civilians, many clad in red, walked past the casket with just seconds to pause, pumping their fists to their hearts or blowing kisses.
They were forbidden from taking pictures or carrying cellphones.