HAVANA - Mourners lined up across the country on Thursday as Cuba paid homage to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, amid concerns that his generous policies would not survive him.
In many cities and towns, people filed through government-arranged memorials to pay tribute to the man who poured oil and money into the island nation to help revive its economy after a near-collapse in the 1990s.
In Havana, lines stretched around the full sweep of Revolution Square, where former Cuban leader Fidel Castro used to speak to rallies of a million people, as they went to the memorial beneath a giant statue of Cuban hero Jose Marti.
Such honors were previously reserved only for commanders in Cuba's 1959 revolution, including Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine who helped lead the rebellion and years after his death remains an inspirational figure for leftists globally.
Whether Chavez, who died of cancer on Tuesday at the age of 58, will achieve the same posthumous status remains to be seen, but for Cubans his importance could not be understated.
"He gave us help when we needed it most. He gave us hope," said grim-faced student Tomas Silvio, 24, as he left the Marti monument.