Throughout the day on Wednesday, enormous crowds took to the streets of Caracas to join the president’s procession from the hospital in which he died to the military academy. The impressive procession traversed eight kilometers of the capital city and lasted seven hours, flooding major avenues and parts of the highway.
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro accompanied Chávez’s casket on foot for the entire procession, alongside his wife, Cilia Flores, and President Evo Morales of Bolivia. In his first act as interim president, Maduro decreed a seven-day period of national mourning for what he called “the lamentable death and irreparable loss of the motherland’s hero.”
Thousands of Venezuelans wishing to pay their respects to President Hugo Chávez have since formed a seven-kilometer line outside the academy, where the late president’s body lies in state in the heart of Caracas. Venezuelan government officials and the president’s family initiated an open casket service on Wednesday night that will end on Friday. Once the service is finished, Chávez’ body will be buried in a location that remains unknown.
The scores of officials present at the service gave a standing ovation to Chávez’ four children, who stood by the casket. Chávez’ only son, Hugo Rafael, 27, is rarely seen in public—unlike his three daughters, who accompanied their father while in office and were by his side during his long and complicated treatment in Havana.
Heads of state from around the world have announced their intentions to visit Caracas between Thursday and Friday, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The presidents of Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have already arrived and attended the service on Wednesday night.
All photos courtesy of the author.