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Hugo Chavez begins his literary afterlife at Venezuela Book Fair

March 20, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • At the annual book fair in Venezuela, a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez reads, in Spanish: "I'll be present in the fight."
At the annual book fair in Venezuela, a mural depicting former President… (Fernando Llano / Associated…)

Hugo Chavez is already having a very busy afterlife.

The charismatic and controversial president of Venezuela died March 5. Not long afterward, one joke goes, he showed up in heaven and persuaded St. Peter to choose a Latin American as the next pope. But St. Peter is worried now because there are elections in heaven soon, and Chavez is buying off the angels with heavenly currency and barrels of free Venezuelan oil.

Back down on Earth, Chavez is busy, too. Over at the 9th annual Venezuela International Book Fair this week (FILVEN), posters showed him painting graffiti on the walls, while a comic book had him outsmarting the military leaders who tried to have him overthrown in a 2002 coup.

“With the chant, 'Long live Chavez! Long live reading!' the book fair begins,” Venezuela’s National Book Center announced on its official website this week.

The Associated Press reported this week that opposition politicians were critical of the government officials’ use of the fair to promote Chavez’s left-leaning policies.

“Conspicuously absent at the book fair on a recent afternoon were tomes written by the likes of conservative Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa or columnist Andres Oppenheimer,” the AP wrote. “Instead, public employees handed out booklets of Chavez’s last televised speech and posters dramatizing his healthier days, with the leader wearing a dark suit and the red, yellow and blue presidential sash.”

One senses a deep and enduring hagiography for Chavez in Venezuela, especially if his chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, wins the upcoming presidential election April 14.

“Sunday the 14th of April is going to be the Sunday of a resurrection,” Maduro said in a recent speech. “If our comandante Chavez has been baptized the Christ redeemer of the poor of the Americas, we are his apostles…”

While alive, Chavez was said to be a voracious reader. He once presented U.S. President Obama with a gift of Eduardo Galeano's book "The Open Veins of Latin America" and urged Venezuelans to read Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” and “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes. His government printed and gave away a million copies of the books.

ALSO:

Hugo Chavez and the "Les Miserables" effect

Is Barack Obama a Marxist? A reading list for Pat Boone

On Iraq War anniversary, Condoleezza Rice announces a book

hector.tobar@latimes.com

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