CARACAS, Venezuela — Mourners formed huge, emotional crowds in Caracas again as officials moved the body of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez o the South American country's military museum.
Venezuelans had thought they'd have an "eternity" — in the government's words — to bid farewell to Chavez, since authorities had said the late leader's body was going to be embalmed and put on permanent display at the museum.
But it appears plans have changed, after experts advised the government that it would be nearly impossible to embalm Chavez because it is too late to begin the process.
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The museum where the former strongman was headed overlooks the staunchly "Chavista" (pro-Chavez) barrio of 23 de Enero, in western Caracas.
The poor and working-class neighborhood's walls are famous for murals of left-wing heroes, including Marx, Lenin and Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
One of the more striking murals depicts the Last Supper, with Christ in the middle, flanked by left-wing revolutionaries — including Hugo Chavez.
A mural in barrio 23 de Enero, in Caracas, Venezuela, depicts a leftist Last Supper.
The transfer of Chavez's body takes place as the country gears up for another ballot on April 14 — just months after Chavez had handily won re-election in October. He was too ill undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba to attend his own inauguration in January. On March 5, he died at age 58.
His preferred successor, Nicolas Maduro, was sworn in as interim president last week and will run against Chavez's old rival, Henrique Capriles, in April's poll.
At Friday's event, some supporters wore headbands reading "Chavez, I swear, my vote's for Maduro."
Before leaving for his fourth cancer operation in Havana, Chavez named Maduro his successor.
That caused an uproar among the opposition in a country whose constitution mandates not succession but elections within 30 days of a president's death.
"We need to follow what Chavez said to the letter," said Jesus Martinez, 56, a mechanic. "He ordered that we vote for Maduro. We're the sons of Chavez and we will continue with Maduro."
Chavez’s final resting place is still unknown, Bloomberg News reported.