Thousands make emotional trek to CHAVEZ tomb
VENEZUELA: Thousands of emotional supporters waited and wept after
making a pilgrimage to the new tomb of former President Hugo Chavez, the
face and leader of Latin America’s left for over a decade. More than 10
days after his death from cancer, the remains of Chavez who was 58, are
now entombed in a marble sarcophagus at the Mountain Barracks in
“This is a time of grieving. My heart just shriveled up when I saw
him in that room. But then I remember him with happiness for all that he
has given me,” said Lino Mejia, 72, who came Saturday from Lara state in
the west to bid farewell to Chavez, whose oil-funded socialist
programmes included heavy spending on housing and health care.
At the centre of an imposing hall with towering columns, yellow
brickwork and tile floors, Mejia and masses of other Chavez supporters
had no choice but to settle for glimpsing at the monument -- flanked by
soldiers -- from afar.
At the entrance to the area, visitors are asked not to approach the
sarcophagus or take pictures.
Chavez was laid to rest at a military museum on Friday after an
emotional final journey through the streets of Caracas watched by
hundreds of thousands.
After more than a week lying in state, Chavez’s body was driven
through the Venezuelan capital in a hearse, allowing his compatriots to
say goodbye to the man who ruled the South American OPEC member atop the
world’s largest proven oil reserves, for 14 years.
Friends and family joined government and army officials in
surrounding the coffin as it arrived at Chavez’s final resting place --
the hilltop former army barracks-turned-museum where he plotted his
failed 1992 coup.
The inscription on Chavez’s tomb reads: “Hugo Chavez, Supreme Leader
of the Bolivarian Revolution.” Bolivar was the local independence-era
hero whose ideas Chavez said inspired him.
The room is replete with images of Chavez, several of his slogans
already carved into marble, with a massive portrait of Simon Bolivar
looking on. There were pictures of Chavez with his political mentor and
key ally, Fidel Castro; another with soccer icon Diego Armando Maradona;
and another with British supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Guards outside the barracks fire a single shot each afternoon at
16:25 local time (2055 GMT): the exact time Chavez died.
Not surprisingly for a government that modeled much of its
revolutionary “infrastructure” on Communist Cuba’s institituions, the
barracks with Chavez’s tomb inside is now being called the “Museum of
Late on Friday officials ruled out embalming Chavez, whose death the
government announced March 5, and leaving his body on permanent public
display in a similar fashion as Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917
Bolshevik revolution in Russia, whose embalmed body rests to this day in
a glass case in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square. Some have suggested
that Chavez should be buried in the National Pantheon next to South
American independence leader Simon Bolivar, Chavez’s personal hero and
the inspiration of his leftist movement.
On Tuesday, the ruling party postponed debate in parliament on a
constitutional amendment that would make this possible without waiting
25 years, as currently required by the constitution.
Venezuelans will vote for a new President on April 14.
In the running are Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor, and
opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez beat in October