Venezuelan national television recently showed--in prime time--the macabre ritual of the digging up of the sarcophagus of Simon Bolivar, and the unwrapping and presentation of his skeleton to the public.
President Chavez says he believes that Bolivar didn't die of natural causes; there was, he suspects, a plot! While few if any historians believe this, Venezuelan tv recently ran an hour long discussion with a fellow who claims his family poisoned Bolivar at the behest of the Yankees!
During the unveiling of the skeleton, a minute of which can be seen here,
patriotic music was played, and President Chavez, present but unseen, provided a Tweet-commentary to his readers. Here's what he had to say:
" "Viva Bolivar It's not a skeleton. It's the Great Bolivar, who has returned!"
"What impressive moments we have lived tonight!! We have seen the remains of the Great Bolivar!"
"Our father who is in the earth, the water and the air ... You awake every hundred years when the people awaken, I confess that we have cried, we have sworn allegiance."
"How much I have wanted you to arrive and to order as with Lazarus: Arise Simon! Now is not the time to die! "
“That glorious skeleton has to be Bolivar, because his flame can be felt. My God,” Chavez said in another tweet. “Bolivar lives… We are his flame!”
The latter comment may have been necessary because there it is unknown whether the skeleton in Bolivar's tomb really is Bolivar. Remains were placed in a national monument in 1842, long after his death in 1830. As the body was unwrapped last week, a Venezuelan flag from the 1930's is evident. Whoever is in the casket has been repeatedly exhumed.
Venezuelans commonly believe that Chavez has been influenced by the "palo" cult, which uses human bones in its rites. Even if that is untrue, televised ceremonies like the latest exhumation of Bolivar and presentation of his bones would attract palo believers.
Opponents of Chavez said he shouldn't be wasting his time on old bones when the economy is the worst in Latin America and the murder rate the highest. "Chavez! Pay attention to the living!" is their slogan.
UPDATE, AUGUST 30:
And now, August 30th, it is the turn of Bolivar's sisters, both of whom are being dug up to cross-reference DNA, to establish whether "Bolivar" is really BOLIVAR!
A similar, more up-close take on Chavez's buffonery by Christopher Hitchens appears here: http://www.slate.com/id/2262520/pagenum/all/#p2
Here's a part of a conversation involving Chavez, Sean Penn, and Hitchens:
" I was again impressed by the way that Chávez rejected this proffered lucid-interval lifeline. All of this so-called evidence, too, was a mere product of imperialist television. After all, "there is film of the Americans landing on the moon," he scoffed. "Does that mean the moon shot really happened? In the film, the Yanqui flag is flying straight out. So, is there wind on the moon?" As Chávez beamed with triumph at this logic, an awkwardness descended on my comrades, and on the conversation."