Friday, March 15, 2013


Hollywood director Mack Sennett was known for his zany movies in which characters took the most unlikely and preposterous actions that there was no need for dialog to cause the audience to laugh out loud. The demise of Hugo Chávez, his funeral and the plans for the disposition of his body have taken on the dimension of a Max Sennett comedy. All that has been missing for the past week and a half is a walk-on roll for Charlie Chaplin.

When the Venezuelan government announced that Chávez had died in a hospital in Caracas, it also announced that he would be put on display forever, so that Venezuelans could venerate his body like Mao or Lenin. I’ve already written about the shell game with the caskets a few days ago and will not delve into that again. But today, the final day of his casket being on display for the faithful to pass by, the final act of the comedy, in all its laughable intrigue played out.

Acting President Nicolás Maduro began the closing scene with the announcement that German scientists had determined that it was too late to perform the embalming techniques necessary to do body preservation for which they had all planned. Other arrangements will likely have to be made (years ago, Chavez had indicated a preference for burial in his home town of Barinas). “We waited too long,” he said. But the real jaw-dropping line came from Chavez’s old army buddy, Major General Jacinto Pérez Arcay, who, at a podium in front of the casket, exclaimed, “how did you leave the stage, Hugo? Like Negro Primero (one of Simón Bolívar's favorite soldiers) you came from Cuba dead!"

Either the government lied in its initial announcement of his death, or the general lied in his excited utterance, next to the casket. As a lawyer with considerable experience in courtrooms, I tend to believe the truthfulness of the emotional outburst of his comrade-in-arms. Spontaneity is the mother of truthfulness. The very nature of it being unrehearsed suggests that the statement has not been crafted to follow some pre-planned agenda.

If one accepts the hypothesis that the general told the truth and the government lied about the place and time of death, the analysis does not end. Why did the government lie? Who and what was being protected? The inescapable conclusion is that the Castros wanted to insure the succession of Maduro to the presidency, essentially staging a bloodless coup d'état. The Castros must be laughing all the way to the bank. A bank that continues to fill with Venezuelan petro dollars.

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