The Secret of Chavez’s Mummy
"I cannot allow an exposition with dead bodies. Those bodies are human remains in our noses. What is that? It is a visible sign of the huge moral decomposition that shakes this planet. When I die, I want to be buried in my house in my town Sabaneta." Hugo Chavez, June 6, 2009
The first time that Omar Barsibosynova felt fear was on March 4, 2013, when he heard with a strong Cuban accent the phrase “They are going to kill you.” His first thought was “Why?” He did the entire job; the body was perfect; also, a nurse who saw the mummy thought that Hugo Chavez was alive.
“Are you sure, Jose? Why do they want to kill me?” said Omar.
“Because of the blood. They think you have it.”
“I don’t have his blood.”
“I know, but they want it back.”
Omar was the kind of person who believes in a man’s word. He was not able to understand why they did not believe him. He sat down on the metallic chair. He needed to breathe and think. Although the lab was so cold, he did not notice it. His native Kazakhstan was colder than this small space. He rechecked the lab; it was like he asked, two stretchers, many white lights, three cabinets and one fridge with pots full of blood, human organs and chemicals.
“Jose, who told you that? Who wants to kill me?”
“Everybody knows it. You must escape tonight,” said Jose who approached Omar and hugged him. It was a surprise for Omar who these kinds of sings of affection were weird. “I’ve to go. Good luck Mr. Omar.”
Omar looked at him for a couple of seconds; Jose with his sad eyes, eternal hunger, and his unique questions was an excellent assistant and a better friend; he knew that he would miss him; “Jose, thank you; it was a pleasure to work with you.” The Cuban man left him alone in the lab with a huge question; how can he escape from Cuba? That island was watched for several Cuban and Venezuelan guards. It was impossible that a guy with strong Asian features could walk without somebody noticing him. The doctor in forensic science who saved Lenin’s body of fungus attack and embalmed Kim Jong-Il had to make the most critical decision of his life: how to be alive.
He walked around the lab thinking; he had enough money in the bank, but a couple of thousand dollars in cash. Omar did not have too many personal things to care about them so that he could escape with a small bag. The problem was the same: all people in La Havana knew him; they called him El chino-ruso. In Cuba, he was an eccentric guy who looked like a Chinese man speaking with a strong Russian accent. They had never heard about Kazakhstan before his time on the island, so he was a circus show for them. Omar felt fear; he did not have the experience of running away or shooting a weapon, but he wanted to live more than anything before.
Omar stopped and looked at his job, the perfect embalmed body of Hugo Chavez. He was working in China refurbishing up Mao Tse-tung’s body when Vladimir Putin called him and asked this mission as a favor. “They want you because Fidel thinks that you are the best.” Omar could not change his destiny; a call from Putin was something that he cannot refuse. Five days later, he was in La Havana airport talking with the number two of Venezuela’s government which explained him by a translator that they wanted a careful, fast work.
"Hugo Chavez couldn't speak, but he said it with his lips ... 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,' because he loved his country; he sacrificed himself for his country," Gen. Jose Ornella told The Associated Press, March 10, 2013
Watching Chavez mummy in the lab gave him an idea; he cannot escape from La Havana, but he could try in Caracas. Venezuela was more significant than the island with more ways which he can take. At that moment, General Jose Ornella appeared in the cold lab; he was a tall, strong man who always was wearing his war uniform, and anytime that he was in the lab, he used to wear a big red coat which was a symbol of Chavez’s party, and also, it helped to hide his balding. He was the man behind Chavez. He led his military guards, he took care of Chavez and his security, and when he fell ill, Ornella was with Chavez all the time. He heard his last words. The General was the only one from Chavez’s party who spoke in English with Omar.
“Doctor, your work is finished. It’s time to go home.”
“Sorry, but are you talking about Chavez or me?”
“Both. We will deposit in your account tomorrow. So, take your things because your flight is in two hours.”
Omar knew that was a lie. There was not money or flight for him, only shoots and blood. “No, it is impossible. I can’t leave the body here. I am a perfectionist. I will leave the body in its last place.”
“Doctor, it is not necessary. We can take care of it.”
“No, you can’t. You call me because you think I am the best. I will travel with the body.” General Ornella looked at him quietly. After a few minutes in silence watching the body, the General had an answer.
“Doctor, you never told us about traveling with the body.”
“Yes, I did. You can ask Mr. Maduro.” Omar was lying, but the day when he was explaining Nicolas Maduro all about the mummification, Maduro was not paying attention to him.
“Mr. Maduro is not here; can you explain to me why you should travel?
“The body needs its periodic injection of humectant to keep moisture in the tissues. Your president has been here in this building for three months, but I do not know if the conditions of his last place in Caracas are the same, or if the pressure in the airplane could change anything. I always work with the bodies in the space where they will be forever. I cannot be responsible if I am not with him.”
“Ok, I will prepare everything.”
“I need to travel with the mummy.”
“I understood. You have to be ready in 30 minutes.”
As soon as General Ornella left, Omar could breathe. He did it; he was alive a couple of days more. First, Omar had been thinking about waiting in the lab, but it should have been suspicious. He walked to his room which was on the same floor; he took some clothes, the money, his laptop and tablet, and his books.
An hour and a half after the conversation with General Ornella, they started moving the mummy. It was difficult because Chavez was standing with his right hand on his face like military salutation; he wore his war uniform and his red beret like Ornella. The best way that they found to move him was using his airplane which has a king size bed. They held Chavez in the luxury bed with some belts; General Ornella had the mission to guard him. Omar was in that flight sitting in front of the body. Because he did not want to be suspicious, he unnecessarily checked the body and put some oil twice on the air.
They arrived at Charallave airport on March 5th at 5:00 am. They could not use the most important airport from Caracas because everybody knew Chavez’s airplane. In Charallave, which is 45 minutes of Caracas, they drove Chavez’s mummy, Omar and General Ornella in an ambulance and two black vans guarded it.
“On Saturday, renowned Chavista revolutionary Eliecer Otaiza, 49, was found dead in the municipality of Baruta in Caracas. His body, struck by multiple bullet wounds, was identified yesterday afternoon”. El Universal, April 29, 2014
They transported Chavez’s mummy to the Military Hospital. Omar was leaving the ambulance when a new black van stopped in front of the medical vehicle. Omar could not see the driver; he lowered the car window and talked with the General. After a couple of minutes, General Ornella explained to Omar.
“Doctor, it is your car.”
“I told you that I want to be close to the body.”
“You will, but his family is coming over, and they want to be with him in the ambulance. You have to understand. I see you in the hospital.”
Omar did not know if the General was telling him the truth, but he did not have another option. He went into the car whose driver was a guy who had dark brown skin, regular height, brown eyes, and hair. He did not wear any red cloth. He could be any person in Caracas. He was
Eliecer Otayza, one of Chavez’s closest men who worked with a different kind of police. Otayza did not talk with Omar on the way to the hospital. Omar did not want to think about the possibility that they were not going to the hospital. He had not been in Caracas before. Omar watched the city while the vehicle was on the streets. He kind of like the town with its mountains, El Avila, its large old building and its dirty streets. At 6:15 am, they stopped in a Chinese restaurant. Omar knew that he was not in the hospital. “They are going to kill me, here,” he thought. He had no idea how he could save his life.
Otayza left the car and entered the restaurant; three minutes later, a Chinese man approached to Omar. “Hi Omar, it’s time to breakfast. Follow me. I’m Juan”. Omar was so freaked out that he was able to think about how a Chinese guy could have Juan as his name. Juan showed him the way to inside the restaurant. It was a rococo restaurant which had before its main door a small bridge. Inside, it had red walls, wood furniture, and gold ornamentation. Otayza was sitting in one of the tables drinking a beer. “Please, sit down Doctor,” Juan said. Omar did it, and Juan sat with them. The Chinese guy saw Otayza’s eyes for two seconds when he started the talk.
“Doctor, he’s Mr. Otayza. He does not speak English, so I am his translator. He wants to let you know that your life is in danger, and he wants to help you.”
“Why does he want to help me?”
“For the same reason that they want to kill you; you have Chavez’s blood.”
“I do not understand why that is so important. In any case, I don’t have it.”
“Who does have it?”
Jose did not have to translate this name. Otayza listened to it and looked to Jose who asked Omar: “Please follow me to the restrooms.”
As soon as Omar was in the restroom, Juan told him: “Please, change your clothes. The new ones are there.” Omar did it, and he noticed that with the new black pants and white shirt, he looked like Juan; they could be cousins. At that moment, Omar understood the idea; with this semblance, he was one Chinese guy more in Caracas. Kazakhstan people and Chinese people are physically similar, and nobody there could notice that he was not Chinese. “Doctor, take your bag and this Chinese passport. You will travel now to Bolivia. From there you can travel to your house. We have to move quickly; they will announce Chavez’s death at 3 pm,” said Juan.
Omar said goodbye to Otayza and Serra and went with Juan in his old blue 1998 Toyota Corolla. When both Asian men were inside of the car, Juan explained to Omar:
“Serra and Otayza believe in sorcery, even president Chavez and Fidel Castro, have been using Babalawo sorcery as a tool for political power. President Chavez’s blood could be a powerful weapon for them.”
Omar was confused. He did not know what this Babalawo thing was, but he thought it could not be good when they play with people’s blood.
At 4:45 pm, Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez’s death on TV; he said the president passed away that March 5th in the morning. Maduro who was Vice-president of Venezuela and who had Chavez’s blood would be the president of Venezuela a month after. He did his speech when Chavez’s mummy was perfectly placed in his office. There, Maduro and his people can talk with him, and ask for favors from Chavez every day. Chavez would be treated like a God. Omar knew the official announcement of Chavez’s death in the middle of was flight when the Capitan announced the breaking news.
“On Sunday, Omar Barsibosynova, famous Kazakhs embalmer, was killed in his house. Police do not have any clue about this case. An official said, ‘his neighbors indicated that he was a solitary man who never left his houses the last two years.’” Zhas Alash Newspaper, March 2, 2015