Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman looks back on the life of deceased President Hugo Chavez who she met on several occasions.
Hugo Chavez’s embalmed body will be permanently displayed in a glass casket at a military museum after a state funeral, Venezuela’s acting president has said.
Nicolas Maduro made the announcement said on Thursday during a television interview with state-owned VTV outside of the military academy where the late president’s body is lying in state.
He said Chavez would first lie in state for at least another seven days at the military academy where he was brought on Wednesday.
Huge crowds are still waiting to pay their respects to Chavez after his death this week, as world leaders began to arrive for Chavez’s state funeral, set to take place on Friday.
Chavez’s body will be embalmed and brought to the Museum of the Revolution, which is still under construction and is close to the presidential palace from which he ruled for 14 years.
Maduro said the move – reminiscent of the treatment of Communist leaders Lenin, Stalin and Mao after their deaths – would help keep Chavez’s self-declared socialist revolution alive.
“It has been decided that the body of the comandante will be embalmed so that it remains eternally on view for the people at the museum,” Maduro told VTV.
Elias Jaua, foreign minister, said 54 countries were sending delegations, including 22 heads of state.
Cuban President Raul Castro and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were met by Jaua on Thursday, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was expected to arrive later in the day.
A US delegation was also travelling to Venezuela for the funeral despite the rocky relationship between the two countries during Chavez’s time in office.
Uncertainty over transition
Chavez often portrayed the US as a great global evil even though he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year.
Chavez slipped into a coma on Monday and died the next day of respiratory failure after a rapid deterioration from the weekend, when he had held a five-hour meeting with ministers at his bedside, one government source told Reuters news agency.
The cancer had spread to his lungs, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There is uncertainty over when a presidential vote will be held in the South American county, which has the world’s largest oil reserves and 29 million residents.
The constitution stipulates a poll must be called within 30 days, but politicians say election authorities may not be ready in time and there is talk of a possible delay. Chavez won four presidential elections.
Maduro, 50, a former union leader who ended his education at high school before plunging into politics, looks certain to face opposition leader Henrique Capriles, 40, the centrist governor of Miranda state who lost to Chavez in last year’s election.
Members of the opposition have kept a low profile and offered condolences during the enormous show of support for Chavez, one of Latin America’s most popular leaders.