Last night, CNN's Chilean affiliate reported that Hugo Chávez is not, in fact, recovering in a Venezuelan hospital because he is dead.
The report was based on the claims of Guillermo Cochez, until recently Panama's ambassador to the Organization of American States. In the hours since it was published, however, the TV station has questioned the accuracy of its own report.
On CNN Chile's program 11 a la Hora, Cochez claimed sources within the Venezuelan military had told him Chávez was a "vegetable" and that he had been disconnected from life support Sunday.
"President Chávez was transferred back to Venezuela because the Cubans didn't want him to be disconnected in their country," Cochez continued.
But as several websites have pointed out, Cochez is not exactly an objective source. During his time as ambassador to the OAS, he slammed the organization for not cracking down on Chávez. And several of his comments to CNN Chile seemed far-fetched.
Cochez said the now-famous pictures of Chávez reading a February 14 newspaper with his daughters are fakes, arguing that the president was too plump and his daughters didn't look right.
"There have been so many lies," Cochez said.
Pushed to name the source of his information, Cochez said, "Listen... I'm a journalist just like you. I can't reveal my sources."
News of Chávez's supposed death exploded on Twitter last night. Of course, it's not the first time that questionable info about the president's health has spread like wildfire. Reputable Spanish newspaper El País was even duped into running a photo of a Mexican man with gigantism and calling it evidence of Chávez's imminent death.
Chávez is likely still alive, but the fact that genuine argument exists over that easily demonstrable fact can mean only one thing.
Venezuela has finally gone full Cuba.
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