Hugo Chavez's body lies in state in Venezuela

media captionPresident Chavez's mother and brothers were among those who paid their respects

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have been queuing to pay their last respects to President Hugo Chavez, who died on Tuesday after 14 years in power.

His body is lying in state at the military academy in the capital Caracas before his state funeral on Friday.

His supporters want him interred alongside Simon Bolivar, the 19th Century independence leader he claimed as his "revolutionary" inspiration.

Mr Chavez died at the age of 58 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Thousands queued through the night to file silently past the open coffin, where Mr Chavez is lying in an olive-green military uniform and his signature red beret.

His family and close advisers, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, paid their respects on Wednesday.

image captionHugo Chavez inspired great devotion among supporters of his socialist 'revolution'

Other world leaders - including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - are flying into Caracas for his funeral.

Several Latin American nations are holding periods of national mourning for the left-wing leader, who was a strong advocate of regional unity.

Mr Chavez's supporters are pressing for a change to the constitution so he can be buried in Venezuela's national Pantheon alongside Simon Bolivar, the "Liberator" who led Venezuela and other South American countries to independence from colonial rule.

Normally, celebrated Venezuelans can only be admitted 25 years after their death.

Political vacuum

New details have been reported of Mr Chavez's last moments.

The head of the presidential guard was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying that he had been with Mr Chavez when he died.

General Jose Ornella said Mr Chavez had died of a massive heart attack, and in his final moments had said he wanted to carry on living.

"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips: 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,'" said Gen Ornella, according to AP.

Tumultuous crowds thronged the streets of Caracas on Wednesday to catch a glimpse of his coffin as it was taken to the military academy where he trained as a young army officer.

Mourners, many wearing red T-shirts and carrying pictures of Mr Chavez, threw flowers at the coffin, which was draped in a Venezuelan flag.

Many Chavez supporters thank him for changing their lives, says the BBC's Will Grant in Caracas.

One supporter at the procession, Maria Alexandra, said: "After Jesus Christ, there's Hugo Chavez. Before him, the government didn't take care about us. Now children have everything."

Our correspondent says Mr Chavez's death has created a potential vacuum at the heart of his political movement.

According to the constitution, there must be a presidential election within 30 days and the government has said it intends to stick to that timetable.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, whom Mr Chavez named as his preferred successor in December, is widely predicted to win the upcoming poll as the candidate of the governing United Socialist Party (PSUV).

Mr Maduro is expected to face the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, who stood for the presidency in October but was beaten by Mr Chavez. The opposition has yet to confirm Mr Capriles as its official candidate.

The exact nature of Mr Chavez's cancer was never officially disclosed, leading to continuing speculation about his health, and he had not been seen in public for several months.

image captionTackling poverty and increasing access to education and healthcare were avowed aims for President Chavez
image captionIncome inequality has dropped in Venezuela but GDP growth has been poor
image captionThe high rates of murder, other violent crimes and kidnappings are key concerns for Venezuelans
image captionChild mortality rates fell, in line with the region, but some medical staff protested at lack of investment
image captionVenezuela's oil wealth has been the mainstay of the economy, providing 50% of government revenues