Remains of Chavez taken to military museum
Updated: 2013-03-16 09:15
CARACAS - Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans Friday marched alongside the casket of their late President Hugo Chavez, as his remains were taken to the mountaintop barracks he once called home and today houses the Historic Military Museum.
The site, located in the city's working-class neighborhood of 23 de Enero, in northwest Caracas, is where Chavez's body will remain until officials decide on a final resting place.
Supporters want him buried next to Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar, a man Chavez greatly admired and named his Bolivarian Revolution after.
The body of the former paratrooper had been lying in state at the capital's Military Academy since the day after his death March 5 from cancer, and millions had visited to pay their respects.
Crowds filled the streets during Friday's two-hour march to the barracks, where the body of the socialist reformer was received with military honors and cannon fire under the 32 flags of member nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ( CELAC), the regional bloc Chavez helped found.
The casket was transported some 20 kilometers inside a black hearse draped with the Venezuelan flag and followed by a two- column motorcade of the National Guard, as air force planes flew in formation overhead.
Attending the ceremony were members of Chavez's family, acting President Nicolas Maduro, along with the entire cabinet, and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was a close political ally of Chavez.
"Thank you for your total dedication, thank you, Commandant, for giving us back our country," his daughter Maria Gabriela said in an emotional tribute, as she read a letter pledging to continue the socialist struggle spearheaded by her father.
Chavez governed Venezuela for 14 years and had recently been reelected to another six years.
Venezuelans will go to the polls on April 14 to elect a new president. Maduro, who Chavez named to succeed him, is running as the candidate of the ruling socialist party against conservative opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October elections.