Diehard Hugo Chávez fans who are short on cash have a new way to make a political statement.
The Youth Intergration Force (FIJU, in Spanish) is offering free tattoos of the former Venezuelan president’s signature, the group announced on its Twitter feed Monday.
The tweet reads: "Heads up that tomorrow starting at 1pm we’ll be tattooing comandante Hugo Chávez’s signature compeletely #free. Come on out!"
FIJU said it would begin tattooing chavistas, as Chávez’s supporters are known, at its headquarters in San Francisco in the Eastern state of Zulia on Monday afternoon and continue the free body art project all week long.
Demand for Chávez tattoos has boomed in Venezuela since the socialist leader’s death on March 5.
The Associated Press spoke last month with tattoo artist Juan Pablo Gonzalez:
Gonzalez said four of the 16 tattoos requested in the three days since reopening after Chavez's death have been copies of the president's flowing signature, in his traditional red. They cost 600 bolivars (nearly $100 at the official exchange rate, $27 at black market rates).
For four times more you can get a portrait of Chavez's face etched onto your arm or back. Gonzalez said several people had asked about the portrait in recent days, but had balked at the price.
The pro-Chávez Venezuelan state news has also ran stories on the phenomenon, interviewing a married couple who both got tattoos featuring the politician’s signature earlier last month.
“They’ve called us everything, even saying that we seem like branded cattle,” Karol Arellano told VTV. “But we don’t pay attention to that, it was an act of love.”
Chávez died last month at 58, after a nearly two-year long bout with an undisclosed form of cancer. He held office continuously since 1999.
A survey of 800 voters by pollster Datanalisis released in mid-March found Maduro leading over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles 49.2 percent to 34.8 percent. Presidential elections are scheduled for April 14.