Caracas: Hugo Chavez's body will be preserved and forever displayed inside a glass tomb at a military museum not far from the presidential palace from which he ruled for 14 years, his successor has announced in a Caribbean version of the treatment given Communist revolutionary leaders such as Lenin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's acting head of state, said Chavez would first lie in state for "at least" seven more days at the museum, which will eventually become his permanent home.
It was not clear when exactly he would be moved from the military academy where his body has been since Wednesday.
A state funeral will be held today attended by more than 30 heads of government, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. US Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, will represent the United States, which Chavez often portrayed as a great global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year.
Maduro said the ceremony would begin at 11 a.M., but did not say where.
"We have decided to prepare the body of our 'Comandante President,' to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong," Maduro said.
He said the body would be held in a "crystal urn" at the Museum of the Revolution, a stone's throw from Miraflores presidential palace.
The announcement followed two emotional days in which Chavez's supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of subversion.
A sea of sobbing, heartbroken humanity jammed Venezuela's main military academy yesterday to see Chavez's body, some waiting 10 hours under the twinkling stars and the searing Caribbean sun to file past his coffin. Last night, Castro and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica visited the viewing site.
At the military academy, Chavez lay in a glass-covered coffin wearing the olive-green military uniform and red beret of his paratrooper days and looking gaunt and pale, his lips pressed together.