Photos: Hugo Chavez Funeral: Venezuelans Pay Tribute to Dead Leader Before Burial [PHOTOS]
By Umberto Bacchi | Mar 07, 2013 06:23 PM EDT
Hundreds of Venezuelan mourners queued for hours to pay tribute to the country's late leader, Hugo Chavez, in the last hours before his funeral.
The body of Chavez, who died at the age of 58, has been lying in state at the military academy in Caracas prior to burial on Friday at 10am local time (2.30 GMT).
"I waited 10 hours to see him but I am very happy, proud to have seen my commandante," said 46-year-old Yudeth Hurtado. "He is planted in our heart."
Chavez's coffin was carried to the military academy at the end of an emotional 8km procession through the streets of Caracas.
Mourners queued at the building to get a glimpse of his body in its glass-covered coffin. He is dressed in an olive-green military uniform and red beret.
Every hour cannons fire to commemorate his 14-year rule, which ended when he lost his battle with cancer after a long spell in hospital in Cuba.
"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips: 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die' because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," the head of Venezuela's presidential guard, Gen Jose Ornella said of Chavez's last moments.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia and his Argentinian and Uruguayan counterparts, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and José Mujica, have arrived in Caracas for the funeral.
Numerous world leaders, including Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are also expected.
Chavez's supporters are pushing for him to be buried alongside his hero and political model, 19th Century independence leader Simon Bolivar, in the mausoleum in Caracas.
Chavez's "Bolivarian" economic policies for an independent Latin America free from US influence gained him a grave in Venezuela's national pantheon, his supporters say.
However, under Venezuela's constitution, even the most celebrated citizen cannot be admitted into the presence of Bolivar until 25 years after death.
Supporters of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez react as they view his coffin during a wake at the military academy in CaracasSource: Reuters
A supporter of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez is carried by soldiers away from the crowd after she fainted while waiting to view his body in state at the Military Academy in CaracasSource: Reuters
A Cuban soldier salutes during a tribute in honor of the late President Hugo Chavez at Cuban independence hero Jose Marti's memorial in HavanaSource: Reuters
An official delegation from Vietnam arrives with a wreath in tribute to Venezuela's late President Hugo ChavezSource: Reuters
Supporters of Hugo Chavez line up to view his body in state at the Military Academy in CaracasSource: Reuters
Venezuelans flocked to pay tribute to Chavez two days after he died of cancerSource: Reuters
Supporters of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez are reflected in a puddle as they line up to view his body in state, at the Military Academy in CaracasSource: Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sits next to Venezuela's representative to the Palestinian Authority Luis Hernandez as he offers his condolences for the death of Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez at the headquarters of the Venezuelan representative's office in the West Bank city of RamallahSource: Reuters
A boy holds a sign that reads "Long live Chavez" during a tribute for the late Venezuelan PresidentSource: Reuters
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez , her Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica and her Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales stand next to the coffin of late Venezuelan President Hugo ChavezSource: Reuters
A man, wearing a shirt with an image of the Hugo Chavez, holds a Venezuelan flagSource: Reuters
The coffin of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez covered with clothes that people have thrown at it, is driven through the streets of CaracasSource: Reuters