Late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s body will be preserved and forever displayed inside a glass tomb at a military museum not far from the presidential palace from which he ruled for 14 years, his successor announced on Thursday in a Caribbean version of the treatment given communist revolutionary leaders such as Vladimir Lenin.
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s acting head of state, said Chavez would first lie in state for “at least” seven more days before the museum becomes his permanent home.
It was not clear when exactly he would be moved from the military academy where his body has been since Wednesday.
Later on Thursday, the National Assembly speaker announced that Maduro would be sworn in last night as acting president following a state funeral and would call elections within 30 days. That enables him, as the designated governing party candidate, to run for president as Chavez desired. Legal scholars say that under the constitution, the legislature’s speaker should instead be sworn in and organize the vote.
More than 30 heads of government, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are to attend the funeral.
Maduro said the ceremony would begin at 11am, but did not say where.
“We have decided to prepare the body of our ‘Comandante President,’ to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong (毛澤東),” he said.
Maduro said the body would be held in a “crystal urn” at the Museum of the Revolution, a mile from Miraflores presidential palace.
The announcement followed two emotional days in which Chavez’s supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of seeking to undermine his “revolution.”
A sea of sobbing, heartbroken humanity jammed Venezuela’s main military academy on Thursday to see Chavez’s body, some waiting 10 hours under the twinkling stars and the searing Caribbean sun to file past his coffin.
On Thursday night, Castro, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and Brazilian Dilma Rousseff viewed the open casket along with former Brazilian president Inacio Lula da Silva.