Venezuelans woke up this week to discover that the government had erected an ominously familiar-looking statue of Hugo Chávez to commemorate the revolution that’s falling apart around them.
The statue, which has generated outrage on Twitter, went up outside a hotel that will play host to next week’s Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Critics are calling the statue a “provocation” and a waste of money—especially at a time when Venezuela can barely afford to feed itself.
But some Venezuelans have taken a mischievous delight in the idea that the 10-foot statue will give them something to topple when the socialist government collapses. And in the meantime, it offers protesters a rotten fruit target to vent their frustrations with the government.
“They’re going to have to surround it with body guards,” joked Twitter user Luis Carlos Diaz.
The new statue of Chávez, shown raising his right arm toward the sky, looks almost identical in form to one of Saddam Hussein that was toppled in 2003, following the fall of Baghdad. That similarity was not lost on Twitter.
Other Venezuelans are reminded of when a crane tore down a Lenin statue in the former Soviet Union.
The controversial statue was erected on the island of Margarita, not far from where President Nicolas Maduro was recently chased out of town by a pot-banging mob. So many residents were already feeling salty to begin with, and aren’t too happy about their town’s newest monument.
“Anything worse than having a Chávez statue outside your building?” tweeted Naisarcástica, a resident of Porlamar, the island’s largest city. “How long will we have to put up with bad news? Give us a breather.”
Chávez idolatry has grown rapidly in Venezuela following the former president’s death in office in 2013. Billboards depicting his eyes overlook the country’s highways, reminding people of the revolutionary leader’s omnipresence.
Officials have also placed large murals with the leader’s signature on government housing projects, and state TV broadcasts constantly refer to Chávez as “the eternal leader” of the revolution.
But the statues also make easy targets.
Last year in the central state of Guarico, a bust of Chávez was decapitated by protesters, providing photos that went viral on Twitter. Another Chávez statue was decapitated in 2014 in the western state of Tachira, when student-led protests broke out across the country.
The newest Chávez statue is still wrapped—or perhaps mummified—in fabric. But it’s scheduled for inauguration before next week’s meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, a cold war-era group of nations that did not want to side with the USSR or U.S.
The Non-Aligned movement has 120 member states, but it lost much of its relevance after the end of the cold war. Today many countries don´t send their heads of state to the movement´s meetings.
As life becomes a daily struggle in Venezuela, many people can’t understand why the government would waste time and money building a statue of a dead president to celebrate the meeting of a near-dead political organization. But maybe it’s a chance to ask for international help in a country that’s running out of many things.
“Could the people who come to this meeting bring some diapers” tweeted Ana Maria Ramirez.