Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Chavez embalming hits hitch

HEAVENLY HUGO?Nicolas Maduro had bad news for those wanting to see Hugo Chavez’s body, but joked that the late leader may be behind divine intervention

AFP and Reuters, CARACAS

For many Venezuelans, the late president 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 Vladimir Lenin started too late, Acting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

Scientists from around the world 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 March 5 death 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 (毛澤東),” Maduro said.

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.

Maduro joked on Wednesday that Chavez’s recent death must have played into the selection of the first Latin American pope.

“We know that our Commander has risen up there, and is face to face with Christ. Something must have influenced things so that a South American pope was chosen. Some new hand arrived and got to Christ and said: It is South America’s time. That’s what I think,” Maduro said to an outburst of laughter at a political event.

“One of these days [Chavez] is going to call a constitutional congress in heaven to change the church in the world, so that the people, only Christ’s pure people rule in this world,” Maduro said.

Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio was earlier elected Pope Francis, becoming the first Latin American pontiff in a surprise decision that seemed to herald a desire for a more open Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, Maduro said that “far right” figures in the US were plotting to kill opposition leader Henrique Capriles in an increasingly volatile atmosphere ahead of an April 14 election.

Accusations are flying and emotions are running high in the South American nation of 29 million people since Chavez’s death.

“We have detected plans by the far right, linked to the groups of [former US president George W. Bush’s administration officials] Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, to make an attempt against the opposition presidential candidate,” Maduro said.

He gave no more details, but said in a televised speech that the government had sent a senior general to meet with aides of Capriles.

The State Department in Washington declined any immediate comment and there was no immediate response from Capriles’ camp.

Noriega, a former assistant secretary of state for Latin America under Bush, denied Maduro’s accusation.

“It’s absolute nonsense,” Noriega said. “They call you what they are and they accuse you of doing what they do. That is the way they operate.”

Reich was not immediately available to comment. Noriega left the Bush administration in 2005. Reich was his predecessor.

Maduro did not explain why right-wing foreigners would want to bring down the business-friendly Capriles.

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