By Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexicans bid farewell to renowned author Carlos Fuentes on Wednesday in an emotional tribute attended by the president and the country's most prominent intellectuals before a planned burial in France.
Fuentes, who died suddenly on Tuesday at 83 after an internal hemorrhage, was one of Latin America's best-known novelists and was still active until the very end of his life working on books and participating in events.
His wife Silvia Lemus said the writer's ashes will be taken to Paris where his two children, who both died young, are buried and where he served as an ambassador.
"We still don't know (when). It is a very difficult moment to decide," Lemus told reporters at the elegant Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico's historical center where President Felipe Calderon, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and others remembered the writer's most moving works.
"Carlos Fuentes will live on through his works, his words, for generations of Mexicans. His thought, his books, his criticism, will never die," the president said. "Carlos Fuentes only passed away to be loved more."
Fuentes wrote more than 20 novels and several collections of short stories and was a frequent critic of Mexican governments and U.S. policies toward Latin America.
His most famous novels include "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "The Old Gringo," which was made into a 1989 movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
Fuentes, who split his time between Europe and Latin America, was Mexico's ambassador to France from 1975 to 1977.
France's new leftist president, Francois Hollande, added to the outpouring of comments after the writer's death on Tuesday. "I pay tribute to the committed man, resistant to norms and dogmas, who keenly defended a simple and dignified idea of humanity," Hollande said in a statement.
Lines of admirers waited in the mid-morning sun to file past the coffin draped in the Mexican flag to pay their respects to Fuentes who, along with Colombia's Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa, brought Latin American literature to a global audience in the second half of the 20th century.
An habitual commentator on contemporary issues, Fuentes had recently criticized the frontrunning candidate for Mexico's July 1 presidential election, Enrique Pena Nieto.
Pena Nieto aims to bring the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for seven decades until being voted out in 2000, back to power but has been criticized as an intellectual lightweight.
Last December, Pena Nieto mistakenly said one of Fuentes' most famous books was written by a different author after the candidate failed to name three books that had influenced him.
"Fuentes did not mince words and was not afraid to call Pena Nieto out as a small man," said retiree Jose Luis Gonzalez as the memorial service.
(Writing by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Anthony Boadle)