Chávez coffin transferred to military academy for wake

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Caracas - The coffin of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was transferred from hospital to the chapel of Military Academy on Wednesday night for a wake, after more than six hours of parade in Caracas.

A huge crowd of Chávez's supporters, dressed in red flags, accompanied the procession that started around 11am from the Military Hospital where Chavez spent his last minutes fighting for life, to the academy where he received military training in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chávez died of cancer on Tuesday at the age of 58.

A wooden casket, with the body of the Venezuelan leader, was taken to the chapel, where presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay made the first round of honor.

After them, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, along with other cabinet members, stood on each side of the coffin to pay their tributes.

Then, Chávez's children - Rosa Virginia, Maria Gabriela, Hugo Rosines and one of his granddaughters - honoured the president amid prolonged applause from the audience.

Later, a religious ceremony was held in the hall. Attendees included family members, priests, Protestant pastors, cabinet members and other executive officials.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said the Military Academy was chosen to keep Chávez's body because he used to call the place "the cradle of the Bolivarian revolution".

Chávez's coffin is to be open for visit and honour to the public until Friday when an official funeral will be held.

It is still unknown where Chávez's grave will be, but his supporters have proposed the National Pantheon, where such national heroes as Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose de Sucre were put to rest. –