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CARACAS, March 8 (Itar-Tass) – The state ceremony of paying last respects to President Hugo Chavez, who died at the age of 58 after a long and serious illness is underway in the building of the Venezuelan Military Academy. Fifty-five countries have sent high-level delegations to Venezuela to attend the ceremony; 32 delegations are led by the heads of states.
The Russian Federation at the official mourning ceremony is represented by head of the Federation Council upper house of parliament Valentina Matviyenko, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, head of the Rosneft company Igor Sechin, who heads the board of directors of the National Oil Consortium, which produces oil in Venezuela, and Director General of Russian Technologies (Rostekhnologii) Corporation Sergei Chemezov.
The state mourning ceremony is broadcast live by all national television channels and radio stations. Friday was declared a non-working day in Venezuela.
A mahogany coffin with the body of Hugo Chavez is installed in the Hall of Fame of the Military Academy. The body is covered with the tricolour national flag with eight white stars. A large gilded cross is installed near the coffin, candles are lit in high candelabra. The guard of honour - soldiers with swords in their hands, dressed in the red hussars uniform of the time of the Venezuelans’ liberation war against Spanish colonial rule is set on the perimeter. The golden sabre of the Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar is installed near the coffin.
On the eve of the state mourning, the vice president of Venezuela announced that the body of Hugo Chavez will be embalmed and placed in the Museum of the Revolution, so that the people could see it forever. “The decision has been made to embalm the body of the president, so that it remained forever, and the people could not see it at the Museum of the Revolution under a glass dome,” he said. “Chavez will be embalmed like Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong.”
The ceremony of paying last respects to the national leader has been extended for the Venezuelan people by at least 7 days, as there are millions of those who want to bid the last farewell to the Comandante, Maduro said. After that the president’s body will be brought to the Mountain barracks, from where on February 4, 1992, Hugo Chavez commanded a military coup attempt that launched the Bolivarian Revolution. The building then housed the Military History Museum, which Chavez wanted to turn into the Revolution Museum, according to his will.