Embalmed leaders: some precedents

Before late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a number of leaders around the world have been embalmed over the past century:

- VLADIMIR LENIN (1924): On the death of the Russian revolutionary leader, on January 21, 1924, his successor Joseph Stalin decided against the wishes of the deceased and his family to embalm his corpse and to expose it to the public in a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square. The mausoleum is kept at a temperature of 16.6 degrees C and a humidity of 70 percent to allow the best possible conservation of the body, which is in a glass sarcophagus.

- EVA PERON (1952): The second wife of Argentine President Juan Peron, an icon in her country, was embalmed on her death on July 26, 1952. Her body was put on show in a chapel in Buenos Aires until her husband was driven from power in 1955, when her body was then secretly buried in Italy. She was finally buried again in 1976 in the family tomb in Buenos Aires.

- JOSEPH STALIN (1953): On his death on March 5, 1953, the Russian leader was in his turn embalmed and put on show in Lenin's mausoleum. His body was taken from the mausoleum in 1961 as part of the de-Stalinisation campaign led by his successor Nikita Khrushchev. Stalin was then buried in a small cemetery reserved for Russian dignitaries just behind the mausoleum.

- JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY (1963): Like numerous American presidents before and after him, JFK was embalmed for his state funeral after his assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. His body was nevertheless not put on show.

- HO CHI MINH (1969): Although he wanted his ashes to be scattered over the country, the father of modern Vietnam was embalmed upon his death on September 2, 1969. His body, preserved in the cold under a glass sarcophagus, has been on show since 1975 in a mausoleum dedicated to him in Hanoi.

- MAO ZEDONG (1976): The Chinese revolutionary leader, who died on September 9, 1976, has been embalmed and on show since 1977 in a crystal coffin in the Mao Mausoleum in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

- FERDINAND MARCOS (1989): The Philippines' dictator, who was overthrown in 1986 and exiled in the US state of Hawaii with his wife Imelda, was embalmed on his death on September 28, 1989. His body is on show in a glass coffin on his family's estate.

- KIM IL-SUNG (1994) and his son KIM JONG-IL (2011): The founder of communist North Korea was embalmed after his death on July 8, 1994. His body has been on show since in the Kumsusan memorial palace, Pyongyang's former presidential palace, which has been transformed into a mausoleum. The body of his son Kim Jong-Il, who succeeded him as head of state, had the same fate upon his death on December 17, 2011.

- NORODOM SIHANOUK (2012): The former king of Cambodia, who died on October 15, 2012, was embalmed and his body lay at rest -- like his father Norodom Suramarit before him in 1960 -- in the royal palace, until a week-long funeral and his cremation last month.

Unlike many of his predecessors, including Pope John XXIII who died in 1963, Pope John Paul II, who died on April 2, 2005, was not embalmed, even if, according to the Vatican, his body was "prepared" before it was put on show to the public before his funeral.