Caracas: The head of Venezuela`s presidential guard says President Hugo Chávez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering.
The general, who was with Venezuela`s socialist President at the moment of his death on Tuesday, told a news agency that Chávez could not speak aloud in his last moments after battling cancer for nearly two years.
"He couldn`t speak but he said it with his lips ... `I don`t want to die. Please don`t let me die,` because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," General Jose Ornella said.
He said Chávez`s cancer was very advanced when death came but gave no details.
Ornella did not respond when asked if the cancer had spread to Chávez`s lungs.
The general said that Chávez had "the best" doctors from all over the world but that they never discussed the President`s condition in front of him.
He said he didn`t know precisely what kind of cancer afflicted Chávez, but added: "He suffered a lot."
He said that Chávez knew when he spoke to Venezuelans on December 08, three days before his final surgery in Cuba, that "there was very little hope he would make it out of that operation".
The revelation came as Venezuelans mourned the death of Chávez while government officials make preparations for his funeral and succession.
The armed forces fired a 21-gun salute to Chávez at 8 am and announced that a cannon would be fired once an hour until the late President was buried on Friday.
The order for the continuous salute was given by Defence Minister Admiral Diego Molero, armed forces strategic command chief General Wilmer Barrientos said.
"This is one of the top honours for a head of state," the general told VTV.
The news of the death of the 58-year-old was announced by a tearful Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who will serve as interim president.
Elections will be held within 30 days and Maduro is expected to be the candidate of the governing Venezuelan United Socialist Party.
The Venezuelan leader`s death made headlines around the world and his funeral is expected to be attended by several world leaders.
(With Agency inputs)