Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's support among the country's people is apparently so strong that many do not seem to mind having a figurine of the socialist leader placed into a nativity scene next to the baby Jesus.
In what would surely cause endless controversy in the United States, a handmade nativity scene in the center of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas has the three kings and baby Jesus in the manger, but also combines the scene with symbols of the "new" socialist Venezuela. Some of those symbols include a miniature cable car reaching up into replica shanty towns to symbolize progress for the poor. Also included in the scene, traditionally meant to reflect the setting of Jesus' birth, are replicas of public hospitals and an homage to Chavez's hero, Simón Bolívar, the 19th century leader of Venezuela who led the country to independence from Spain.
Venezuela's culture is also represented, with figures of people in traditional dress in dancing poses, miniature buildings, as well as some PR for Chavez, with photos of the president kissing babies and waving from the president's mansion.
Chavez supporters who work for the government said that despite any controversy, the politicized nativity scene was appropriate because Venezuela's revolution has a lot in common with Christianity, Reuters reported.
"Like Christianity, the revolution is all about love," said Yasmina Ereu, a Women's Ministry worker. "Some people are fascinated. Others don't like it. But this is a democratic country. Everyone is welcome to their opinion."
Government workers did not bother hiding that the nativity scene was created to promote Chavez's record.
"The intention is to show off all the revolution's achievements because the media silence the good things President Chavez has done," said Maria Alejandra Mijares, a Women's Ministry employee, who helped make the nativity scene.
However, others were simply offended.
"It has nothing to do with the real Nativity, with religion. I don't like it," said passerby Arnaldo Amundaray, to Reuters.
Chavez, who has said Castro and Jesus "cured" him of cancer, is up for reelection in Oct. 2012. However, it has been rumored by Brazilian newspaper Veja, that Chavez is still battling the disease and he may not be healthy enough to withstand another election.