by F. Michael Maloof
There are persistent rumors that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead, with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro adding to the speculation with a letter speaking of Chavez’ “absence.”
For weeks, Chavez has not been heard from, following a series of cancer treatments in Cuba. Earlier reports from Havana said he was fighting a respiratory infection that had developed after his fourth cancer surgery.
Chavez was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.
Castro sent an open letter to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro that was published in the Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee newspaper, Granma, reminiscing about when he first met Chavez in 1994.
The key words in the 350-word article were Castro’s observation that “however painful (Chavez’s) absence, all of you will be capable of continuing his work.”
Chavez may have died two weeks ago, when further public information about him stopped, according to Venezuelan opposition and intelligence sources.