Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of a heart attack after great suffering and inaudibly mouthed his desire to live, the head of Venezuela’s presidential guard has said.
“He couldn’t speak, but he said it with his lips... ‘I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,’ because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country,” General Jose Ornella said.
The general said he spent the past two years with Chavez, including his final moments, as Venezuela’s president of 14 years battled an unspecified cancer in the pelvic region.
Ornella spoke outside the military academy where Chavez’s body lay in state before Friday’s funeral. He said his cancer was very advanced when death came but gave no details. The government said on the eve of Chavez’s death that he had suffered a severe new respiratory infection.
It was the second such infection reported by officials after the president underwent his fourth cancer operation in Cuba on December 11. Chavez was 58.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Caracas yesterday to catch a glimpse of the coffin as it was carried on a hearse from the military hospital where Chavez died to the military academy where he started his army career.
The glass-topped casket is on view to the public at the academy, where Chavez’s family and close advisers attended a funeral Mass with the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay.
Country bans alcohol for mourning period
The Interior Ministry of Venezuela has ordered a ban on sales and consumption of alcohol across the country for the seven-day period of mourning for late President Hugo Chavez. The ban will be in force until March 12. The ministry also introduced a temporary ban until March 12 on carrying weapons in public for those individuals, who have permission.