Venezuela’s Chavez Criticises Media Rumours That He Had Died

Yesterday President Hugo Chavez phoned the state television channel VTV in order to dispel the rumours created by the opposition and private media that, following nine days of “absence” from public life while receiving radiotherapy in Cuba, he had “died” or had experienced a medical emergency.

By Tamara Pearson

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President Hugo Chavez (right) with newspapers to prove the date of the photo (Presidential Press)
President Hugo Chavez (right) with newspapers to prove the date of the photo (Presidential Press)
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Mérida, April 24th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Yesterday President Hugo Chavez phoned the state television channel VTV in order to dispel the rumours created by the opposition and private media that, following nine days of “absence” from public life while receiving radiotherapy in Cuba, he had “died” or had experienced a medical emergency.

"I think we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumours... because they are part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war," he said.

Chavez left for Cuba on April 14 to undergo further radiation treatment, following the reoccurrence of cancer in February this year.  

Venezuelan daily El Nacional reported that, “Never has the uncertainty been greater in Venezuela,” and international and national private media argued that Chavez’s state of health had “raised doubts” over his “political future as he campaigns for re-election in an October 7 vote” (Reuters, Monday 23 April).

The Miami Herald on Friday headlined, “Venezuelan president lack of visibility fuels health speculation” and AP on Saturday headlined, “Venezuelans anxious at Chavez’s disappearing act”. The AP article only quoted one Venezuelan street vendor to support the claim. The same day, Fox News Latino’s headline was “Silence from Venezuela’s Chavez Raises Concerns”. This was despite the fact that the day before national assembly president Diosdado Cabello said that Chavez would return to Venezuela soon.

Cabello told press that the opposition spread such rumours as a part of a “desperate” campaign, “because the polls aren’t giving them the results they’d like”. He also criticised private media for not publishing such poll results. The latest poll, conducted this month by private Venezuelan agency Hinterlaces found that 53% of voters intend to vote for Chavez, while 34% intend to vote for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.  Other poll companies have found that closer to 60% of voters will vote for Chavez.

“The same people who complain that he talks a lot are the ones who panic when they don't hear him,” said pro-Chavez lawyer, Dario Vivas, outside the national assembly on Friday.

To counter the rumours, the government also published photos of Chavez with his family and some ministers last night. Today public television channels broadcast a fourteen-minute video of Chavez in Havana, recorded yesterday.

Chavez said he was still “recovering” and “my health exams that were conducted today came out well”. He also said that although radiotherapy was “tough” and he had to watch his food, rest, and receive treatment, he would continue to “carry out all my tasks as president”

Chavez said he would return to Venezuela on Thursday, but would need to return to Cuba again for more treatment sessions.

Among other rumours started by the private press, in September last year, Miami based El Nuevo Herald quoted unnamed sources to claim that Chavez had suffered kidney failure and was undergoing dialysis. At the time, Chavez responded, “People know me, know that I would be the first to come out and say, explain, any difficulty in any part of the [treatment] process”.

United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Jorge Rodriguez said today that “every lie that they [the opposition] put out lasts less and less because it is revealed quicker”.