Maduro leads tribute to Chavez, a week after his death

Caracas, Mar 12 (EFE).- The acting president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, government officials and military officers participated Tuesday in a religious ceremony to pay homage to the late President Hugo Chavez, who died a week ago in this capital after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A trumpet call was sounded at 4:25 p.m. at the Military Academy, the time last Tuesday at which Chavez died. His body has lain in state in the funeral chapel there since last Wednesday.

"This revolutionary - comandante Hugo Chavez - was ahead of his time, was misunderstood by some, vilified by others, the wicked ones. They tried to profane his honor, that of his eternal spirit," said Maduro at the conclusion of a ceremony officiated at by Father Numa Molina.

He said that Chavez "reclaimed" South American liberator Simon Bolivar - officially said to have been born in Caracas - and "he brought him down" from the statues to transform him into a "man of the street."

Maduro also took advantage of the occasion to congratulate Chavez's daughter Maria Gabriela on her birthday and assured her that her father is at her side and that "the struggle continues."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said during the ceremony broadcast by all the country's radio and television stations that a week after the death of the former president the people continue to stand in line to view his body at the funeral chapel.

"A week has passed. President Chavez has been bathed in the love of a people. Hundreds of thousands, humble men and women, children and the elderly, have seen him, have blessed him, have cried for him," Jaua said.

He recalled that dozens of heads of state from all over the world paid tribute to the fallen president, whom he described as "a man who made history and will continue making history."

Chavez, 58, died at the Military Hospital in Caracas of a massive heart attack after a 21-month battle with cancer, and the next day his body was taken - escorted by a huge multitude of mourning citizens - to the Military Academy.

Maduro announced on March 7 that Chavez's body will be "eternally" embalmed so that his followers may continue to see it as other nations have done for key figures in world socialism such as Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin and Ho Chi Minh.

Next Friday, the body of the late president will be taken to the Cuartel de la MontaƱa barracks in Caracas, where Chavez took refuge when, as a military officer, he headed a failed coup d'etat in 1992.