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Le gouvernement vénézuélien a décidé de ne pas embaumer le corps du président décédé Hugo Chávez, car il ne s'y est pas pris assez tôt.

I can't understand what it means. I don't know the grammatical components, if any, in this part of the quotation, either. I want to understand it logically; not just a translation that is basically useless without a grammatical explanation of this structure (for further reproduction in speech).

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

S'y prendre is an idiomatic expression. See item 3ème section, III of the TLFi definition

III. − S'y prendre .Agir d'une certaine manière en vue d'obtenir un résultat déterminé. Synon. s'arranger, procéder, se débrouiller.

So it basically means to start to act.

S'y prendre assez tôt thus means to start to act soon enough. Combined with the negative and compound past, you get that [the government] was too late in starting the embalming work.

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Merci beaucoup. Très informatif. So il in the car il ne s'y est pas pris is le gouvernement, isn't it? – indoxica Jul 11 '13 at 10:38
@indoxica Excatly – Alexis Pigeon Jul 11 '13 at 10:40
And il ne s'y est pas pris, according to the TLFi definition, can basically be replaced by either il n'a pas procédé or il ne s'est pas arrangé? – indoxica Jul 11 '13 at 10:49
procéder is not a good replacement here, arranger is a bit better. You could also use il n'a pas engagé/initié la procédure assez tôt. – Alexis Pigeon Jul 11 '13 at 11:23

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