As a tribute to Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez unveiled Saturday a new coffin adorned with gold, pearls and diamonds.
Soldiers lifted a flag from the mahogany coffin during a ceremony marking the anniversary of Bolívar's death in 1830. Bolivar is both a national hero in Venezuela and the namesake of Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution political movement.
"You live on in us," Chávez said in a speech, standing next to the coffin. "As the years pass, you will be more alive, father Bolivar."
Officials have said Chávez's government is spending 119 million bolivars ($27.7 million) to build a new mausoleum to house Bolivar's remains. The mausoleum is to have a soaring roof, and a metal framework has been erected behind the National Pantheon, where Bolívar's remains have long been entombed.
You live on in us...As the years pass, you will be more alive, father Bolivar.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
Chávez oversaw the exhumation of Bolívar's remains last year, seeking to confirm his idol's identity and investigate a theory that Bolivar could have been killed. Researchers confirmed Bolívar's identity through DNA tests but were unable to pin down the cause of his death.
The new coffin bears golden stars and the national seal, as well as Bolívar's initials and golden laurels. An announcer said the decorations on the coffin include diamonds and pearls from Venezuela.
Chávez has made Bolívar a central symbol throughout his nearly 13-year-old presidency. He often speaks below a portrait of Bolívar. In 1999, Chávez promoted the approval of a new constitution that changed the country's name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.