CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and now Hugo Chavez. The late leader’s supporters have put him on a pedestal long provided for the world’s great leftist revolutionaries by saying they will embalm his body for perpetual display.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s acting head of state, said Thursday that Chavez’s body would be forever displayed inside a glass tomb at a military museum not far from the presidential palace from which the socialist firebrand ruled for 14 years.
“We have decided to prepare the body of our ‘Comandante President,’ to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong,” Maduro said.
Other socialist or communist leaders given similar treatments after dying are Russian dictator Josef Stalin, though his body was later removed, and North Korea’s father-and-son leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. But it was the famous display of Soviet founder Lenin in Moscow’s Red Square in 1924 that inspired the custom among leftist leaders.
Maduro said Chavez’s body would be held in a “crystal urn” at the Museum of the Revolution, a stone’s throw from Miraflores presidential palace, but that first the body would lie in state for “at least” seven days at the museum.
The announcement followed two emotional days following the leaders’ death in which Chavez’s supporters compared him to Jesus Christ, and accused his national and international critics of subversion.
But not everyone shared in the adoration of Chavez in death.
“Seriously? It’s not a joke?” asked street food vendor Juan Ferreira, 51, on hearing that the late president’s body would be put on permanent display. “Well, they can do what they like with Chavez’s body. What is important is that they leave us in peace and give us the tranquility to work, that they stop making all us Venezuelans fight.”
A state funeral was planned for Friday and would be attended by more than 30 heads of government, including Cuban President Raul Castro and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Congressman Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, and former Rep. William Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, will represent the United States, which Chavez often portrayed as a great global evil even as he sent the country billions of dollars in oil each year.