Crowds of grieving Venezuelans lined the streets of Caracas Wednesday as the funeral procession of late President Hugo Chavez traveled through the capital.
The longtime socialist leader's body was transported from the military hospital where he died the day before after a long struggle with cancer. He was 58.
The late president will now lie in state at a military academy until his funeral on Friday. Officials have not said where he will be buried.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez's death on national television Tuesday. He urged the Venezuelan people to show strength and courage, and to be united and fulfill the expectations of the man he called a "great leader."
"We now have to be united more than ever with major discipline and collaboration. We are going to grow. We are going to be dignified, inheritors and children of a great man," he said. "He was and will always be Comandante Hugo Chavez. Glory and honor Comandante Hugo Chavez. Long live Chavez!"
Maduro is expected to lead the government until a presidential election can be held. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has declared the election will be announced within 30 days. That contest would likely pit Maduro against opposition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles.
Chavez had been treated in Cuba for cancer before returning to Caracas last month. Officials said he came down with a severe infection after strong chemotherapy after returning to Venezuela.
Chavez had cancer in his pelvis. He had not been seen in public since December and missed his inauguration for another term in January. Maduro accused Venezuela's enemies of attacking the president with cancer, but he did not say how that could have been done.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement saying the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and is committed to polices that promote democracy and human rights.
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, sent his condolences to the Venezuelan people, calling this a time of great sorrow. The OAS will hold a special meeting in memory of President Chavez.
Chavez, the son of school teachers, once dreamed of becoming a major league baseball player in the United States, but instead opted for a career as an army paratrooper.
Authorities jailed him in 1992 for leading an unsuccessful coup against then-president Carlos Andres Perez. Six years later, Chavez was elected to the office after promising to wipe out poverty and end corruption.
Chavez earned the enmity of the United States and others for his socialist policies, nationalizing major companies and courting world leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.
The country's opposition also accused him of being a dictator. However, millions of poor Venezuelans revered him for using the country's vast oil wealth to give them access to low-cost food, free medical care and other social programs. Still, experts say Chavez failed to control crime or use oil money to enrich the overall economy.
Also Tuesday, Venezuela expelled two U.S. diplomats, accusing them of meeting with military officers and plotting to destabilize the government. The two diplomats are air attaches -- U.S. Air Force officers who are stationed in the embassy.
A statement from the U.S. State Department rejected the Venezuelan claim about the diplomats and calls accusations that the United States was involved in causing Chavez's cancer absurd.
Latin America analyst Sean Burges said the challenge for Caracas in the post-Chavez years will be the economy.
"Nobody knows what's going on with the oil company and how much it's producing," he said. "There are balance payments problems. There are production problems.There are supply problems. And these are all things that even if Chavez had stayed in power, he was going to have to deal with in the next four years. So it's going to be a really titanic exercise in economic management and rationalization."
He also said Chavez's 14 years in power have irrevocably changed the nation and, more broadly, the politics of Latin America.
"Irrespective of what happens, I think some of the social policies and the political, dynamic changes Chavez brought in, those are going to be around forever," he said.
Burges said the death of Hugo Chavez may also mean a new relationship between Venezuela and the United States. He said Venezuela's economic problems will necessitate reaching out to the U.S. and others for help solving them.