Mérida, 1st March 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) A claim by the ex-Panamanian ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS) that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died several days ago after being “brain dead since 30 December” has been dismissed as “attention-seeking” and “speculation” by supporters of the Venezuelan president.
Guillermo Cochez, until recently Panama’s ambassador to the OAS, declared on Wednesday that Chavez had been taken back to Venezuela last Monday 18 February “because they didn’t want to disconnect him in Cuba” from the machines that, in Cochez’s version of events, would have been keeping the Venezuelan president alive.
According to the Venezuelan government, Hugo Chavez is currently in the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas recovering from his cancer operation, undergone last December in Havana.
Cochez, in the interview with news channel NTN 24, further claimed that the official photos released of Chavez on 15 February, in which the Venezuelan president is shown smiling and reading the newspaper, as “false”.
“I challenge the Venezuelan government to tell me that what I’m saying is false, by showing President Chavez,” demanded the ex-diplomat.
Cochez, who insisted that he had “journalistic sources and sources inside the Venezuelan government” also predicted that on “Wednesday or Thursday” fresh presidential elections would be called, which would “reflect that what has been said [officially] about President Chavez is totally false”.
So far, by Friday this week, this prediction has not been fulfilled.
Cochez was dismissed as Panamanian ambassador to the OAS after his outburst in an OAS session in January in which he referred to Venezuela as a “classic dictatorship” and a “sick democracy”.
He also appeared to support Venezuela’s right-wing opposition by arguing that a delay in Chavez’s swearing-in represented a “violation” of the Venezuelan constitution. Some members of the opposition have made the same argument.
The comments were condemned by other OAS member states and Cochez’s own government, which dismissed Cochez and referred to the outburst as “far from the position of the national government”.
Today, a national assembly legislator for Chavez’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), referred to Cochez’s claims as “speculation” and “attention-seeking”.
The legislator, Calixto Ortega, said in an interview that he was “surprised at the irresponsible declarations of ex-ambassador Cochez”.
Referring to Cochez’s dismissal as ambassador, Ortega added, “It would appear that Mr. Cochez started a fight with Venezuela and Panama”.
“We all know that President Chavez has had a serious illness and [an on-going] delicate recovery, but has Mr. Cochez seen Chavez? Has he been in Cuba or Venezuela? Has he been in contact with Chavez’s family? No, he’s just been speculating,” continued Ortega.
Meanwhile, today Venezuelan vice-president Nicolas Maduro denounced a “fascist” media campaign around Hugo Chavez’s health aimed at “destabilising” the country.
He said that Chavez was the “most harassed patient in history” and called on private media to “cease the attack against the comandante, cease the rumours, and enough already with using a situation that’s already delicate for everyone in order to create destabilisation”.
Maduro called on people to trust the official information given on Chavez’s health, according to which the Venezuelan president is responding well to treatment for cancer, however has a breathing tube in place as part of his fight against a respiratory infection, which makes it temporarily difficult for him to speak.
The vice president added that Chavez is undergoing “complex and tough” treatments which require “time and calm”.
“All of these treatments are very careful, we need to go little by little, we need to respect the person being submitted to these treatments,” he added.
The Venezuelan government has previously denounced speculation and rumours around Chavez’s health, particularly by Spanish papers ABC and El País, with the latter publishing photographs in January purporting to show Chavez undergoing treatment, which later turned out to be false.