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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 April, 2014

Plan to put Chavez’s body on display ‘may be impossible’

The acting president of Venezuela said preparatory steps to put Hugo Chavez’s body on display should have been taken much earlier.

A girl with a poster of Hugo Chavez pictured outside the military academy where his body is lying in state in Caracas
A girl with a poster of Hugo Chavez pictured outside the military academy where his body is lying in state in Caracas
Image: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

FOR MANY VENEZUELANS, the late Hugo Chavez is deeply etched in their minds and souls. But plans for them to be able to view him in perpetuity may have gone awry.

The process of embalming his remains specially so that he could be viewed like Lenin started too late, acting President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

Scientists from around the world and countries like Russia and Germany have been summoned and the news is not good, Maduro said.

The government had said it wanted Chavez’s supporters to be able to visit the late standard-bearer of the Latin American left forever in the wake of his death on 5 March from cancer after 14 years in power.

The reason is that “preparatory steps would have to have been taken much earlier,” Maduro said. “The decision would have to have been made much earlier.

“So I have the duty to report on these steps so that everyone knows that there are difficulties that could make it impossible to do what was done with Lenin, Ho Chi Minh or Mao Zedong,” Maduro added.

Maduro said that he got the idea from his love of Chavez – and from presidents who came from other countries and suggested the late leader be preserved for permanent viewing.

Chavez’s casket has been on view for several days in Caracas, with tens of thousands of supporters filing past to bid farewell.

It was only on Monday that Venezuela plunged into a bitter election fight to succeed Chavez, with Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles facing off in a flurry of name-calling.

Thousands of the late president’s supporters massed outside the National Election Council as Maduro, dressed in a jacket in the colors of the Venezuelan flag, officially registered his candidacy.

“I am not Chavez, but I am his son and all of us together, the people, are Chavez,” he said.

Wearing red berets and T-shirts emblazoned with Chavez’s image, his supporters vowed loyalty to the deeply polarizing socialist revolution that the former army paratrooper championed for over a decade.

Capriles, an energetic 40-year-old state governor who lost to Chavez in October presidential elections, kept his followers off the street but warned Maduro on Sunday: “I won’t leave you an open path.”

“You are going to have to defeat me with votes,” Capriles said in accepting the nomination of the main opposition coalition.

Venezuelans will vote in snap elections on 14 April after a brief campaign that analysts say heavily favors Maduro, who Chavez picked as his successor in his last public appearance before going to Cuba for cancer surgery in December.

– © AFP, 2013

Read: Rivals trade barbs as election to succeed Chavez starts >

Read: Hugo Chavez died of a ‘massive heart attack, mouthed desire to live’ >

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