MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of a massive heart attack.
Gen. Jose Ornella, head of Chavez’s presidential guard, told the Associated Press that he died after great suffering. Ornella, who said he was with Chavez at the moment of his death, said Chavez couldn’t speak but mouthed the words “I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die.”
On Wednesday thousands of people lined the streets to pay their final respects to the former president as Chavez’s body was taken from the hospital to the military academy in Caracas where it will lie in state until Friday’s funeral.
Leaders from all over Latin America and world are expected to attend Chavez’s funeral. Venezuela’s cardinal is scheduled to celebrate a mass for Chavez Friday evening in Rome. He is there for the upcoming conclave.
Chavez, 58, was president of Venezuela for 14 years. He died Tuesday after a long battle with an unspecified cancer in his pelvic region.
Chavez was born in Venezuela to a working class family. He became a career military officer, a paratrooper, and frequent government critic. Chavez’s first foray into the political theater came when he led a failed coup in 1992, for which he spent two years in prison.
After that failure, Chavez came back to the forefront of Venezuelan politics to win his first of several presidential elections in 1998.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)