CARACAS, Venezuela – A flag-draped coffin carrying the body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez floated over a sea of supporters Wednesday on its way to a military academy where it will lie in state. Away from the procession route, jittery Venezuelans facing an uncertain future without their larger-than-life leader flocked to supermarkets and gas stations to stock up on supplies, preparing for the worst a day after Chavez succumbed to cancer.

Tens of thousands lined the streets or walked with the casket in the capital, many weeping as the body approached, led by a grim drum major. Other mourners pumped their fists and held aloft images of the late president, amid countless others waving yellow, blue and red Venezuelan flags.

“The fight goes on! Chavez lives!” shouted the mourners in unison, many through eyes red from crying late into the night.

Chavez’s mother, Elena Frias de Chavez, leaned against her son’s casket, while a priest read a prayer before the procession left the military hospital where Chavez died at age 58. Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s anointed successor, walked with the crowd, along with Cabinet members and uniformed soldiers.

“I feel so much pain. So much pain,” said Yamile Gil, a 38-year-old housewife. “We never wanted to see our president like this. We will always love him.”

The former paratrooper will remain at the military academy until his Friday funeral, which will draw leaders from all over the world. Already, the presidents of Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have arrived to mourn a man whose passing leaves an huge void in the region’s anti-American left.

“The Chavez-less era begins,” declared a front-page headline in Caracas’s El Universal newspaper.

But even in death, Chavez’s orders were being heeded in a country covered with posters bearing his image and graffiti pledging “We are all Chavez!”

Maduro will continue to run Venezuela as interim president and will stand as candidate of Chavez’s socialist party in an election the country’s constitution requires be called within 30 days.

In a late-night tweet, Venezuelan state television said Defense Minister Adm. Diego Molero had pledged military support for Maduro’s candidacy against likely opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, despite a constitutional mandate that the armed forces play a nonpolitical role.

For die-hard Chavistas who camped out all night outside the military hospital, Wednesday was the first full day without a leader many described as a father figure, an icon in the mold of the early 19th-century liberator Simon Bolivar. Others saw the death of a man who presided over Venezuela as a virtual one-man show as an opportunity to turn back the clock on his socialist policies.

It was not immediately clear when the presidential vote would be held, or where or when Chavez would be buried.

Venezuela’s constitution specifies that the speaker of the National Assembly, currently Diosdado Cabello, should assume the interim presidency if a president can’t be sworn in.