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Chavez To Be Preserved 'Like Lenin'

Thousands of Venezuelans have lined up to view the body of President Hugo Chavez in Caracas.
Thousands of Venezuelans have lined up to view the body of President Hugo Chavez in Caracas.
By RFE/RL
Venezuela’s interim leader says Hugo Chavez’s body will be preserved “like Lenin” and put on display inside a glass tomb.

Acting head of state Nicolas Maduro also said the body of the late Venezuelan president would lie in public for seven more days at a military academy near the presidential palace.

The announcement came ahead of the March 8 state funeral for Chavez.

The funeral was expected to be attended by dozens of world leaders, including Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The socialist Chavez led Venezuela for 14 years. His death at the age of 58 after several cancer surgeries was announced March 5.

Maduro said plans call for Chavez to be embalmed and put on display for “eternity.” He drew comparisons to former communist leaders Ho Chi Minh, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong.

"It has been decided that the body of the comandante will be embalmed so that it remains eternally on view for the people," Maduro said. "Like Ho Chi Minh, like Lenin, like Mao Zedong. The body of our commander in chief, embalmed in the museum of the revolution, in a special way so he can be in a glass case and our people can have him there present always.”

Other leaders whose bodies have been preserved and put on perpetual display in their home countries include Lenin, the Soviet Union’s founder; Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese revolutionary leader; Chinese communist revolutionary Mao; and the father and son North Korean communist rulers Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly, said Maduro, who was vice president under Chavez, would officially be sworn in as interim president March 8 and would call for a new presidential election.

It was not immediately clear when a new election might be held. Chavez was elected to a fourth term last October but was too ill to be sworn in.

Before going to Cuba for cancer surgery in December, Chavez named Maduro as his preferred successor.

Troubled U.S. Ties

The United States, which had a troubled relationship with Chavez, said it would be represented at the funeral by its charge d'affaires in Venezuela, as well as New York Congressman Gregory Meeks and former Massachusetts lawmaker Bill Delahunt.

Shortly before Chavez’s death was announced, Maduro expelled two U.S. diplomats for involvement in alleged conspiracies in Venezuela.

Maduro also seemed to suggest that the cancer that ultimately killed Chavez was somehow injected into him by his enemies -- a charge echoed by Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

A frequent critic of U.S. policy, Chavez sought to forge alliances with countries including Russia, Iran, and Belarus.

His government purchased significant quantities of Russian weapons for Venezuela's armed forces. It also reached agreements with Russia for joint development of OPEC-member Venezuela’s oil reserves, considered among the biggest in the world.

A former lieutenant colonel in the military, Chavez enjoyed wide support, especially among Venezuela’s poor.

This was due in part to his government’s massive spending to expand health care and education programs, financed by income from oil exports.

Human rights and press freedom groups criticized Chavez’s rule for repressive measures targeting critics of his government. Business groups accused him of scaring away investors and dragging down the economy by seizing and nationalizing some enterprises.

Critics also denounced his leadership over Venezuela's high levels of violent crime, bloated government bureaucracies, and widespread corruption.

Based on reports from Reuters, AP and AFP

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