1 of 6

Venezuela's late president Hugo Chavez is to join the ranks of embalmed leaders on show around the world.

Like many historic leftist and authoritarian leaders before him, El Comandante is going to be embalmed and encased in a glass-covered coffin, instead of being buried alongside his hero and political model, 19th Century independence leader Simon Bolivar, as he has reportedly wished.

"We have decided to prepare the body of our 'Comandante President,' to embalm it so that it remains open for all time for the people. Just like Ho Chi Minh. Just like Lenin. Just like Mao Zedong," said Venezuela's interim President Maduro.

Chavez's body is to be held in a "crystal urn" at the Museum of the Revolution, near the presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro said.

Stuffing leaders for perpetual display might seem a grotesque practice in the West, but has been incredibly popular with supporters of communist leaders in the East since the embalming of Lenin in 1924.

The Bolshevik leader was displayed in a wooden tomb in Moscow's Red Square for weeks, and then moved to a dedicated mausoleum where he still rests.

In 1953, Lenin's body was joined in the mausoleum by his embalmed political successor Joseph Stalin. The pair were separated by USSR authorities when they decided to bury Stalin in 1961.

Leaders' preserving practice, spread from Russia to the Far East, leading to the embalming of several communist leaders.

Supporters of Vietnam's communist leader Ho Chi Minh were the first to follow the Soviet fashion, despite the dictator's will requesting that he be cremated. Ho, who died in 1969, is still on display in a Hanoi mausoleum.

A few years later (1976) it was China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's turn to be embalmed and put on show in a mausoleum at the heart of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where he still rests.

More recently North Korea's dictator Kim Il-sung - known as The Great Leader - and his son and successor Kim Jong-il - The Dear leader - have been embalmed, and exposed for mourners and devotees to contemplate, respectively in 1994 and 2011.

However Russians are still considered to be at the foremost practitioners in embalming.

It was Russian experts who reportedly preserved the two Kims and Ho Chi Minh's body is said to be flown to Moscow for reembalming on an annual basis.

The leader-embalming fashion has now crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed in South America, leaving many people puzzled.

"Seriously? It's not a joke?" asked street food vendor Juan Ferreira, 51, on hearing about the plans for Chavez's body.

"Well, they can do what they like with Chavez's body. What is important is that they leave us in peace and give us the tranquillity to work, that they stop making all us Venezuelans fight."