Venezuela: Chávez Was Killed by Cancer 'Attack' by 'Enemies of the Fatherland'

Max Read · 03/06/13 08:23AM

Hours before the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, Vice President Nicolás Maduro ejected two U.S. diplomats from the country, accusing them of plotting to "destabilize" Venezuela and implying that the U.S. had infected Chávez with cancer. "We have no doubt," Maduro said in a television address, that a scientific commission would find "that commander Chávez was attacked with this illness," comparing Chávez to Palestinian Yasser Arafat, whom Maduro suggested was also poisoned. The removed diplomats, U.S. Air Force attaché Col. David Delmonaco and another, unnamed military official, had, Maduro claimed, attempted to recruit members of the Venezuelan military into an unspecified plot against Venezuela. U.S. officials scoffed at the claims, and most observers understood Maduro's accusations against "imperialists" to be a fairly standard base-rallying move that Chávez himself had frequently resorted to in the past. Conspiracy theorists, nevertheless, turned to Venezuelan lawyer and commentator Eva Golinger, who claimed in an interview with Russia Today—the media wing of the administration of longtime Chávez ally Vladimir Putin—that there's evidence that the E.U. had had infected the president with cancer. She declined to present or describe this evidence. The U.S. has indicated it will likely ask some Venezuelan diplomats to leave the country over the next few days in response. Chávez's funeral is on Friday; Venezuela will hold elections in 30 days. [Reuters | WSJ | Ultimas Noticias]