In death, Hugo Chavez won't get the immortal perch he hoped for. Tardy embalmers ruined any plans to put the body of the late Venezuelan president on permanent display, like those of Lenin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh. To add insult to injury, the hug his pal Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave Chavez's mother at his funeral has turned grief into an occasion for a new outburst of extremist rants.
"Touching a non-mahram, or unrelated, woman under any circumstances, whether young or old, is just not allowed. Hugging or expressing emotions is improper for the dignity of the president of a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran," said Mohammed Taghi Rahbar, the Friday prayer leader of Iran's second-largest city, Isfahan.
Fanning more post-mortem flames in the world of Iranian extremism is the photograph of consolation between dictator and dictator's mom. Exercised clerics say the photograph, even if of Mr. Ahmadinejad's flattering side, immortalizes an egregious sin against Islam. Another cleric, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Mirtajeddini, says the hug never took place and that the photograph was Photoshopped.
As if this weren't enough, Mr. Ahmadinejad should never have called Chavez "a martyr who will be resurrected like Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdit," a ninth-century saint revered by Shiite Muslims. This could have been taken as an endorsement of the essential Christian doctrine. Mr. Ahmadinejad, not heretofore recognized as an ecumenical theologian, may be lucky to keep his head.
In the coming weeks, we will hear more about Chavez's death. Venezuela is setting up an inquiry into allegations that the dictator was poisoned by foreign adversaries. Nicolas Maduro, the acting president and presidential candidate, was part of the chorus suggesting the United States may have technology to spread cancer to South American leaders, citing the fact that Cristina Fernandez, Argentina's president, is the fifth Latin American leader to be diagnosed with cancer this year.
And Mr. Ahmadinejad? He's 100 percent behind claims that his Venezuelan compadre did not die of natural causes. "We have the intuition that our commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way," the Iranian heretic told Al Jazeera. "We will seek the truth," Mr. Maduro told regional TV network Telesur. Far be it from autocrats to suffer ordinary mortal afflictions.
Hugo Chavez was not universally mourned. A few Hollywood types waxed sorrowful (Sean Penn) and a few politician-businessmen had to wonder when their next check from Citgo would arrive (Joe Kennedy), but in Venezuela thoughts move forward to the presidential election.
Mr. Maduro revealed the news of the faulty embalming earlier this week at the Book Fair of Venezuela. The comandante will decay like the rest of us. You can make book on it.
The Washington Times
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