Hugo Chávez once said, "If they kill me, the name of the person responsible is George Bush."
Bush is long gone from office, of course. But now that the larger-than-life leftist is dead, some in Venezuela believe that the U.S. really is to blame. On Tuesday, Chávez's handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, said the president had been "attacked" by the country's "historical enemies" and called for a scientific investigation.
Even some people in the United States suspect their own government whacked Chávez. Yesterday, three American civil rights groups announced they had officially requested all of Uncle Sam's records on the socialist.
The request was made by the civil rights group the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, and Liberation Newspaper.
In letters sent Tuesday to the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department, the trio demanded all documents on Chávez:
This request in made in light of the U.S. government's acknowledged history of knowledge and possession of information regarding, and/or participation in, attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. The acknowledged attempts by the U.S. Government to assassinate foreign leaders, include Fidel Castro, Rafael Trujillo, and General René Schneider Chereau (See, e.g.., January 3, 1975 Memorandum of Conversation between President Gerald Ford and CIA Director William E. Colby), among others [secured by the National Security Archives pursuant to the FOIA]. ...
The public has an urgent and compelling need for information underlying any effort to assassinate the President of Venezuela, including any knowledge the U.S. government has or had regarding such efforts and in particular any role the U.S. government had in such efforts.
The United States does have a long and sordid history of armed intervention in Latin America, including coups against democratically elected leaders such as Chile's Salvador Allende and Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz.
But the U.S. government has denied giving Chávez cancer. "An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chávez's illness is absurd, and we definitely reject it," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Maduro isn't the only one calling foul play. Eva Golinger, a lawyer and writer closely linked to the Chávez administration, claimed she has "evidence" that the U.S. induced the president's illness.
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"There is evidence that 70 years ago they tried to assassinate then Cuban President Fidel Castro with radiation, in addition to other methods," Golinger told Venezuelan paper Últimas Noticias. "We can only imagine the weapons capacity the U.S. possesses today."
Unfortunately, it will probably be another 70 years before the CIA actually releases the requested records.
And if the Venezuelan government really wanted the truth about Chávez's death, it shouldn't have hidden his illness from the public for nearly two years. The government has never divulged the kind of cancer the president had and, as late as Tuesday morning, insisted he was recovering.