Today, Venezuela will hold the official state funeral for Hugo Chávez.
Already, ceremonies in honor of El Comandante are well underway. On Wednesday, a caravan carried Chávez’s body along a seven-hour-long procession through the streets of Caracas. The flag-draped coffin was laid in state at the military academy where he started his army career. There, hundreds of thousands have filed past to view the open casket.
Yet while tears have streamed from the eyes of many Venezuelan’s this week, accusations have poured from the mouths of others. Just hours before officially announcing Hugo Chávez’s death on Tuesday, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro stood before a television audience and accused the regime’s enemies—the U.S. included—of causing Chávez’s cancer.
General Jose Ornella, head of the Venezuelan presidential guard, was at the side of Hugo Chávez when he died. In statements to the Associated Press this week, he too spoke of foul play being involved in Chávez’s cancer. Even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is set to attend the funeral tomorrow, has said he believes something “suspicious” was going on.
But who really killed President Chávez? After all, the President was under the care of Cuba’s doctors for more than a year and a half.
Back in mid-2011, when Chávez first embarked for Cuba, he surprised many as he chose to put his life in the hands of Cuba’s socialist medical system rather than receive treatment at one of Brazil’s most renowned cancer-treatment hospitals. As Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue then put it, “For Chávez, questions of trust, political loyalty and control trump all other considerations.”
The influence of Fidel Castro over the life of Chávez is well known. Or perhaps he was sold on the superior curative powers of Cuban medicine after meeting with American Michael Moore, whose body of dubious worked includes a paean to Cuban medicine in the movie Sicko. The Cuban doctors were certainly not miracle workers.
To that point, in an article early this week, Latin Americanist Joel Hirst wrote:
According to Dr. Jose Marquina, who has become well known for having the only information on the Venezuelan president’s condition that has proved over time to be accurate, the Cuban doctors are at least partially at fault for the Venezuelan leader’s imminent demise. He has said that the Cubans misdiagnosed the cancer, treating Chávez with chemotherapy and other treatments designed for the wrong type of cancer. This made the disease resistant and impossible to treat, while causing other complications which affected not only Chávez’s life expectancy but also the quality of what life remained.
The real truth is that cancer killed Chávez. It is time for Venezuela’s new leadership to quit trying to play an absurd game of anti-American politics with the cause of his death and set about restoring the health of their increasingly dysfunctional nation.