8 March 2013
The body of President Hugo Chavez is to go on permanent display in a military museum in Venezuela, like many socialist leaders before him.
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No matter how baffling it may seem to outsiders, the allure of a dead socialist leader can't be underestimated. In Moscow, Beijing and Hanoi, the corpses of Lenin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh are displayed under subdued lighting for equally subdued lines of people to file past, paying silent respects.
In North Korea, Kim Il-sung's public resting place was recently renovated to accommodate the embalmed remains of his son Kim Jong-il.
In Beijing, visitors to Mao Zedong are encouraged to buy flowers for him, though they must leave them outside.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's revolutionary leader, wanted to be cremated but was preserved nonetheless. Outside his mausoleum Vietnamese queue in their hundreds for entry: schoolchildren, grizzled old men; women dressed in traditional ao dai.
The pull of the embalming fluid becomes still more puzzling when a country has politically moved on. Lenin has so far survived several attempts to evict him from Red Square, though the Soviet Union is long gone.
In China, Mao lingers at the heart of a capital which also plays host nowadays to Starbucks and McDonald's. But so far, China's politicians can still quote the sayings of Mao while pursuing policies widely at variance with his legacy.
It's a balancing act that critics of the embalming of Venezuela's president will now be anxiously watching.
Click here to hear the vocabulary
puzzling, confusing, difficult to understand
an attractive, interesting or exciting quality
(of colour) not bright; (of sound) not loud
- to file past
to move past (something) one by one
preserved using chemicals to stop it decaying (of a dead person's body)
burned as part of a funeral ceremony (of a dead person's body)
having grey hair and looking old
force someone to leave somewhere
stays longer than is necessary
- at variance with