Venezuelans are paying their respects to late President Hugo Chavez as his body lies in state with an open casket in the capital, Caracas. Elections for a new president are set to take place in the next month.
After a long procession from the hospital where Chavez died, the casket with Chavez's body arrived at a military academy on Wednesday, where a private Mass was held with Chavez's close family and advisors.
After the mass, members of the public were admitted to the academy to file past Chavez's casket. Mourners are expected to continue coming until well into the Venezuelan night.
Chavez died on Tuesday at the age of 58 after a two-year battle with a cancer that was first detected in his pelvis. His state funeral is scheduled for Friday.
Election on the horizon
Vice President Nicolas Maduro (pictured above, left) is acting as caretaker leader until elections for a new president can be held.
Maduro is considered a close ally of Chavez and has pledged to continue his legacy. However, it is believed he would be unlikely to make major policy changes soon.
Chavez enjoyed great popularity among the country's once-neglected poor for having used the country's oil riches to fund housing, health, food and education programs.
Authorities announced that elections for a new president would take place within 30 days. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles - who lost to Chavez in a presidential election five months ago - is expected to stand against former bus driver and union leader Maduro. In a condolence message, Capriles called for unity in the nation of almost 30 million.
"This is not the time to stress what separates us," Capriles said. "There are thousands, maybe millions, of Venezuelans asking themselves what will happen, who even feel fear ... Don't be scared. Don't be anxious. Between us all, we're going to guarantee the peace this beloved country deserves."
Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, fell ill soon after the October election, which had given him another six years in power.
mz/slk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)