“Hugo Boss”

In Canada’s National Post, Christopher Hitchens reflects on the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chávez. I have embedded a link to the Washington Post article to which Hitchens refers:

Recent accounts of Hugo Chavez’s politicized necrophilia may seem almost too lurid to believe, but I can testify from personal experience that they may well be an understatement. In the early hours of July 16 – just at the midnight hour, to be precise – Venezuela’s capo officiated at a grisly ceremony. This involved the exhumation of the mortal remains of Simon Bolivar, leader of Latin America’s rebellion against Spain, who died in 1830. According to a vividly written article by Thor Halvorssen in the July 25 Washington Post, the skeleton was picked apart – even as Chavez tweeted the proceedings for his audience – and some teeth and bone fragments were taken away for testing. The residual pieces were placed in a coffin stamped with the Chavez government’s seal. In one of the rather free-associating speeches for which he has become celebrated, Chavez appealed to Jesus Christ to restage the raising of Lazarus and reanimate Bolivar’s constituent parts. He went on:

“I had some doubts, but after seeing his remains, my heart said, ‘Yes, it is me.’ Father, is that you, or who are you? The answer: ‘It is me, but I awaken every hundred years when the people awaken.’”

As if “channeling” this none-too-subtle identification of Chavez with the national hero, Venezuelan television was compelled to run images of Bolivar, followed by footage of the remains, and then pictures of the boss. The national anthem provided the soundtrack. Not since North Korean media declared Kim Jong-il to be the reincarnation of Kim Il Sung has there been such a blatant attempt to create a necrocracy, or perhaps mausolocracy, in which a living claimant assumes the fleshly mantle of the departed.

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