Chanting crowds bid farewell to beloved Argentinian president

Thousands of Argentines filed past a flag-draped coffin to pay their respects to former president Nestor Kirchner last night, then lined the capital's rain-slicked streets for a glimpse of his hearse as it passed by.

Police officers in orange traffic vests jogged alongside the black Mercedes hearse as the funeral procession wended its way through the wind and rain in crowded downtown Buenos Aires.

People emerged from apartment buildings and businesses to applaud the man credited with helping the South American nation recover from a crippling economic crisis in the early 2000s. Onlookers holding umbrellas and sky-blue and white flags tossed flowers onto the vehicle, and some marched along behind, chanting: "Olé Olé Olé, Nestor, Nestor."

Arriving at Jorge Newberry airport, guard of honour loaded the coffin into an Argentine air force plane that then took off for Mr Kirchner's native province of Santa Cruz, in the southern Patagonia region, where an intimate funeral is planned.

The former leader died on Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of 60.

Earlier yesterday his widow, President Cristina Fernandez, presided over the wake for a second day in the Casa de Gobierno, dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses. About a thousand people passed through the government palace to pay their respects every hour.

People lined up in the rain outside waiting their turn to go in.

"Hang on, Cristina" and "We love you," some visitors cried out.

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