Venezuelans are observing another day of mourning for their late President Hugo Chávez, who died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
Mourners were lined up Thursday at a Caracas military academy where Chavez’s body is lying in state. Several close Chávez allies, including the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, already are in Venezuela for his funeral on Friday.
The head of Venezuela’s presidential guard said that Chávez died of a massive heart attack and was suffering a great deal in his final moments. Previously, the government had confirmed Chávez had cancer, but had not given details about the type or the severity.
Wednesday, crowds of grieving Venezuelans sobbed and threw flowers as the president’s coffin made its way through the streets of Caracas from the hospital where he died to the military academy where he now lies in state. A somber Vice President Nicolas Maduro walked next to the hearse.
The United Nations Security Council held a moment of silence Wednesday for Chávez, and many world leaders have expressed their sorrow.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is closed until after the funeral. The U.S. delegation to the funeral has not yet been announced. President Barack Obama said he reaffirms his support for the Venezuelan people and is committed to polices promoting democracy and human rights.
Chávez, a staunch socialist, was elected president in 1998. He earned the enmity of the United States and others for such policies as nationalizing major companies and courting world leaders such as Fidel Castro, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.
The country’s opposition accused him of being a dictator. But millions of poor Venezuelans revered him for using the country’s vast oil wealth to give them access to low-cost food, free medical care and other social programs. However, experts say Chávez failed to control crime or use oil wealth to enrich the overall economy.