The chummy relationship between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the late Hugo Chavez is no secret, but the depth of the Iranian president's affection and indeed, reverence for the deceased Venezuelan leader might take some by surprise. Ahmadinejad declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for all Iranians while simultaneously elevating Chavez to martyr-status -- one on par with Jesus Christ (who is considered a prophet in Islam) and Islam’s 12th imam -- the last of the Twelve Imams who Shiites believe to be mankind's ultimate savior.
Of Chavez, the Iranian leader said, “I have no doubt that he will return, along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human.”
Shared ideologies and geo-political foes is one thing. Elevating a South American dictator to the the same status as, essentially, one's messiah is quite another. Nonetheless, this is how deep Ahmadinejad's adoration apparently runs.
In addition to delivery prophecies, the Iranian leader alluded to the conspiracy theory that Chavez may have met the same fate as the late Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yassir Arafat, who some believe was poisoned by the Israeli secret service.
During his condolence message, Ahmadinejad said Chavez was a "martyr" who died of a "suspect illness."
Chavez of course enjoyed immense popularity in Iran, having made no less than 13 visits to the Islamic Republic during the span of 13 years.
"Hugo Chavez is a name known to all nations. His name is a reminder of cleanliness and kindness, bravery...dedication, and tireless efforts to serve the people, especially the poor and those scarred by colonialism and imperialism," Ahmadinejad explained prior to calling the Venezuelan leader a prophet.