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Hugo Chavez: Venezuelans File Past Open Coffin To Pay Their Respects

 

Venezuelans have begun filing past the open casket of the late President Hugo Chavez, as he lies in state ahead of a funeral service on

Friday.

A coffin carrying the controversial socialist leader took seven hours to reach the military academy in the capital Caracas, as a parade made its way through crowds of weeping loyalists.

Mr Chavez’s mother Elena and his three daughters, son and grand-daughter, were the first to pay their respects.

The country’s foreign minister, Elias Jose Jaua Milano, declared seven days of mourning for Mr Chavez, who died at the age of 58 after losing his battle with cancer.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have filled the streets since his death, surrounding the capital’s landmarks with a sea of red, yellow and blue – the colours of the national flag.

Women clung to each other and wept near the Miraflores presidential palace as Mr Chavez’s hearse was driven through the city. Some supporters wore T-shirts with slogans that read: “Go forward commander!”

Nearby, men pumped their arms in the air while shouting: “Long live Chavez! Long live Chavismo!”

Reporting for Sky News, journalist Virginia Lopez, said: “Family, friends and members of the President’s Guard of Honour joined the parade.

“The streets are bursting with people wearing red berets that Mr Chavez made emblematic of his rule.”

Minutes before his final journey, vice president Nicolas Maduro said Mr Chavez’s “spirit roams freely, filled with light protecting our people. Our people are in the streets expressing their solidarity, their feelings.”

He fought back tears as he announced the death on Tuesday night in a national television broadcast.

He said Mr Chavez, who had been in power for 14 years, died at 4.25pm local time “after battling a tough illness for nearly two years”.

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