Chavez lies in state

The body of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lay in state in a half-open casket Wednesday at a military academy in Caracas, after throngs of weeping supporters lined the streets to bid farewell.

Hundreds of thousands waved flags and chanted “Chavez lives” as his hearse crawled across the capital in a seven-hour trip from the hospital where he died to the academy he once called his second home.

(‘Goodbye my president’: Supporters cry for Hugo Chavez)

The former paratrooper’s hand-picked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, walked alongside the car, wearing a somber expression and the colors of the national flag, in what was in effect his debut in an election campaign. Maduro was accompanied the length of the route under a baking sun by Bolivia's President Evo Morales, cheered on by huge crowds.

Once at the academy, soldiers removed flowers and mementos thrown on to the wooden casket by the crowd and Chavez's grieving mother Elena covered her face with a white handkerchief during a Catholic ceremony.

The coffin was then ushered inside and placed half-opened in the hall, surrounded by his three daughters, son Huguito and a grand-daughter, who looked at their father, some choking back tears, as people chanted: “Chavez lives, the struggle goes on,” as officials and three Latin American presidents applauded.

Chavez’s death after a near two-year struggle with cancer was a blow to his supporters and to the alliance of left-wing Latin American powers.

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