The Venezuelan government said it will set up a formal inquiry into suspicions that the late President Hugo Chavez's cancer was the result of poisoning by his enemies abroad.
Having been sworn in as Venezuela's interim president, Nicolas Maduro has begun the post-Chavez era in the pugnacious style of his former boss – expelling US diplomats, accusing "historical enemies" of poisoning the president and labelling the domestic opposition as fascists who want to divide the country.
The decision to probe the circumstances surrounding the former president's death comes after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of the foreign dignitaries at Chavez's funeral, alleged he died of a "suspect illness".
Maduro appeared again Monday on regional TV network Telesur confirming what he said last week about revealing the truth behind Chavez's death, "We have the intuition that our commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way". He also said foreign scientists will be invited to join a government commission to probe the accusation.
Nicolas Maduro refused to say what type of cancer Chavez had, but he said that it had behaved in a very unusual way. He further said that the United States and other countries had developed programs in the 1940s and 1950s to experiment with intentionally causing cancer, but “I’m not accusing the United States at this moment”, he added. According to him, the "dark forces" were getting rid of Chavez to destroy the Bolivarian revolution and strike Latin America and the Caribbean.
Responding the effort of gathering all world-best scientists, opposition said "... it is typical Chavez-style conspiracy theory intended to feed fears of imperialist threats to Venezuela's socialist system and distract people from daily problems". As an interim president handpicked by Chavez himself, Nicolas Maduro is also a candidate in the April 14 snap election to choose Venezuela’s new president. Critics said he is trying to keep voters' attention firmly focused on Chavez to benefit from the outpouring of grief among his millions of supporters. The opposition is centering its campaign on portraying Maduro, a former bus driver, as an incompetent who, they say, is morbidly exploiting Chavez's demise.
"They're attacking him saying he isn't Chavez. Of course Nicolas isn't Chavez. But he is his faithful, responsible, revolutionary son," senior Socialist Party and campaign official Jorge Rodriguez told Al Jazeera. "All these insults and vilification are going to be turned into votes for us on April 14", he added.
Dr. Elmer Huerta, an oncologist and former president of the American Cancer Society, told CNN Tuesday that any scientific investigation into Chavez's death could be complicated by the fact that Chavez's body has already been embalmed so that it can be placed on display in a Caracas museum. "They should have already taken all the tissue samples If they want to investigate", said Huerta.
A Venezuelan analyst and former diplomat Fernando Gerbasi said the scientific commission Maduro spoke of this week will not be formed ever. He believes it's only a political speculation. "They have wanted to use to the maximum Chavez's death for political purposes", he said.