Venzuelans pay last respect to Hugo Chavez
Mexico City, March 17 : Thousands of Venezuelans lined up Saturday outside the Military Museum in capital Caracas, where the body of Hugo Chavez had been brought and placed into a marble sarcophagus.
Access to the sarcophagus was opened Saturday for those wanting to pay tribute to the Venezuelan president, who died March 5, aged 58, following a two-year-long fight with cancer.
In a culmination of 10-day national mourning, crowds escorted Friday a black hearse carrying a casket with Chavez's body on a 12-km trip to the Military Museum from the Military Academy, where it had been lying.
Chavez, who ruled Venezuela for 14 years, is now looking at the mourners from images hanging on the Military Museum's walls but no photography is allowed inside.
The museum's staff will fire a vintage gun daily at 4.25 p.m., the time of the comandante's death.
The Venezuelan government earlier gave up its plans to preserve Chavez's body for eternity but it was not clear what would happen to the body in future.
"We have ruled out the idea of embalming the body of Comandante Chavez after a Russian medical commission report, although many Venezuelans had hoped for this option," Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas wrote in his Twitter blog Friday.
Acting President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor, asked the National Assembly to reform the constitution to allow Chavez's body to rest in the National Pantheon.
Maduro, who was vice president under Chavez, will run as the candidate from the ruling party, as Venezuelans will vote in snap presidential elections April 14.
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, who was defeated by Chavez in the October vote, will be the opposition's candidate. Maduro is likely to win the vote, according to opinion polls.