Where will Chavecito’s final resting place be?


“Chávez deserves to rest in the National Pantheon! Share if you agree.” (Graphic making the rounds of Facebook lately.)

Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Does that man ever rest? Nope. Even dead, he’s still stirring the old soup in characteristic Chavecito fashion. Case in point: Where his body will go when the seven-day national mourning period is up and the millions-strong crowds disperse and go home. Some are saying his earthly remains should be brought to his old home in Barinas and buried there, as befits the humble origins of down-to-Earth Chavecito. Others have grander ideas, more suited to the stature of the undeniably great president he became:

The acting president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, announced on Sunday that the body of the Leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chávez, will be brought from the Military Academy to the Museum of the Bolivarian Revolution on Friday, so that the people of Venezuela will have an opportunity to attend the Comandante’s wake on Thursday.

“On Friday, we’ll bring Comandante Chávez to the Historical Museum of the Bolivarian Revolution”, the former Military Museum, Maduro announced during an official speech.

“We invite everyone to come with their love, their hope, and their strength, so that we can share this love with the Comandante,” Maduro added.

With respect to the proposal made by the people of Venezuela themselves, that Hugo Chávez be laid to rest in the National Pantheon alongside Simón Bolívar, Maduro said that this would be discussed in order to approve a constitutional amendment that would permit fulfillment of the people’s will.

“For this, we need an amendment, proposed by the Democratic Progressive Forces, the majority of the national Chavista bloc, in order to bring Comandante Chávez to the National Pantheon,” Maduro announced.

Maduro also informed the press that the office of Hugo Chávez Frías, in Miraflores Palace, the government seat in Caracas, would be preserved as a museum, along with all the work spaces Chávez maintained in that location.

“Even if we have to move to the Plaza Bolívar [the main square of downtown Caracas], we will go gladly, because that space in Miraflores was founded by Cipriano Castro, and dignified by Comandante Chávez,” said the acting president.

Meanwhile, people are still arriving at the Military Academy to pay their respects to the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, who has been lying in state there for five consecutive days, accompanied by “a sea of people” who have come to commit themselves to continuing his legacy.

The funereal chapel was set up last Wednesday after a great multitude accompanied the revolutionary leader’s casket along an eight-kilometre journey through Caracas, from the Military Hospital where he died on March 5 after a two-year battle against cancer.

The number of people who have come to the Military Academy has exceeded all expectations and this brought about the Executive’s decision to extend the ceremony to the coming Thursday, whereafter the body of Hugo Chávez will be brought tot he Museum of the Revolution (formerly the Military Historical Museum) so that the people can pay their final respects.

The government has also announced that the body of Chávez will be embalmed “so that the people will have him forever”, according to the acting president, Nicolás Maduro.

Translation mine.

And here, again, we land in another posthumous bit of Chavecito controversy. Some are arguing against the proposal that his body be placed on permanent display in a glass casket, like that of Lenin or Chairman Mao. It’s been said that he didn’t believe in the embalming and preservation of human bodies, calling it a “degeneration of human dignity”. And the following clip from his TV show, Aló Presidente, has been offered up as “proof” of that:

And here, again, we have evidence of the media twisting what he said into something he most certainly did not mean. If you watch the clip, and you understand Spanish, you will soon realize that he’s not talking about embalming in general. He’s heartily in agreement with the preservation of cadavers donated to medical schools for the teaching of anatomy, for instance. What Chavecito is taking issue with, in the clip, is one very specific, and very controversial, use of preserved human bodies: namely, as “art”. He’s talking about the Body Worlds exhibit, which has toured the globe and, while in Caracas four years ago, was set up in a fancy shopping mall, the Sambil, which is frequented by the well-to-do suburbanites of the opposition. Chavecito is objecting very specifically, and ONLY, to this particular display, considering it undignified in the extreme. And he has a good point: Who would want their dissected, plastic-injected corpse to be cranked into odd poses, dressed in bizarre costumes, and put on display in a fucking upscale shopping centre, like some kind of grotesque department-store mannequin? And what kind of people would go to see such a lurid display?

Obviously, this is a far cry from what is being proposed for Chavecito himself. He won’t be dissected for the ghoulish oppos’ delectation, and no indignities will be done to his body; like Lenin, he will be preserved with the utmost respect, as befits a second Bolívar. There is no chance that he will be simply shovelled under the dirt of Barinas and left to rot forgotten, as the opposition would no doubt prefer. In death as in life, he will be ever present, and guarded by the watchful and loving eyes of his own people. And I would not be a bit surprised if he ends up in the Pantheon, according to the people’s own wishes. He followed their will right up to the last days of his life; why should he not go on doing so even in death…or rather, as I and many others assert, in immortality?

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