The announcement followed two emotional days in which Chavez's supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of seeking to undermine his "revolution."

A sea of sobbing, heartbroken humanity jammed Venezuela's main military academy Thursday to see Chavez's body, some waiting 10 hours under the twinkling stars and the searing Caribbean sun to file past his coffin.

On Thursday night, Castro, Presidents Jose Mujica of Uruguay and and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil viewed the open casket along with former Brazilian president Inacio Lula da Silva.

But even as his supporters attempted to immortalize the dead president, a country exhausted from round-the-clock mourning began to look toward the future. Some worried openly whether the nation's anointed leaders are up to filling his shoes, and others said they were anxious for news on when elections will be held. The constitution mandates they be called within 30 days, but the government has yet to address the matter.

"People are beginning to get back to their lives. One must keep working," said 40-year-old Caracas resident Laura Guerra, a Chavez supporter who said she was not yet sold on Maduro. "I don't think he will be the same. I don't think he has the same strength that the 'comandante' had."

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. In a nod to the insecurity that plagues this country, mourners had to submit to a pat down, pass through a metal detector and remove the batteries from their mobile phones before they entered.

As they reached the coffin, many placed a hand on their heart or stiffly saluted. Some held up children so they could see Chavez's face.

"I waited 10 hours to see him, but I am very happy, proud to have seen my comandante," said 46-year-old Yudeth Hurtado, sobbing. "He is planted in our heart."

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