The body of Tancredo Neves was carried to the nation's capital today with full military pomp, while his successor, Jose Sarney, announced that the president-elect would be buried on Wednesday wearing the presidential sash that illness had prevented him from receiving in life.
As the flag-draped casket of Neves, who died here last night of respiratory collapse and general infection, was accompanied through the streets of Sao Paulo to the airport by tens of thousands of mourners, the Congress in Brasilia formally declared the presidency vacant and ordered eight days of mourning. Neves had undergone seven operations for a ruptured intestinal tumor since March 15.
Earlier, Vice President Jose Sarney, who had been sworn in March 15 in Neves' stead, had informed the Congress he would complete the six-year mandate, as the constitution stipulates. No new oath of office is necessary.
Sarney said in a television address that he bore the "weight of an office I neither desired nor requested, but am conscious of my responsibilities," confirming that he would follow Neves' program.
"The life of Tancredo Neves was an exercise in dialogue and conciliation. We shall follow his example and carry out a government of concord, change, work, morality and austerity," said Sarney.
Ministers nominated by Neves are expected to offer their resignations and then be reappointed expressing allegiance to Sarney.
On arrival in Brasilia aboard the presidential plane, Neves' body was carried by an armored car under escort to the presidential palace to lie in state, after a salute from representatives of the armed forces from which he had negotiated a handover of power this January.
Thousands gathered in front of the palace to hear a funeral mass before filing past the casket inside.
On Tuesday Neves' body will be transferred to the capital of his home state, Minas Gerais, and on Wednesday will be buried in the family crypt in his historic hometown of Sao Joao del Rei.
At least three heads of state and 40 foreign delegations will attend the ceremony. The United States will be represented by Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige and Langhorne A. Motley, undersecretary of State for Latin American affairs.