With Chavez Ailing, Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Spying

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 5 2013 2:26 PM

With Chavez Ailing, Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Spying (and Spreading Cancer)

People held candles during a praying ceremony for the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas Feb. 22, 2013.
People held candles during a praying ceremony for the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas Feb. 22, 2013.

Photo by Jorge Silva/Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's deteriorating health appears to have his government on edge, and his administration has turned to a familiar scapegoat: the United States.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced this afternoon that the government will expel a U.S. embassy official from the country for allegedly spying on its military and meeting with officers in an effort to destabilize the country at a time when Chávez is said to be suffering from his latest setback in his battle against cancer. For good measure, Maduro also repeated accusations that the United States was somehow behind Chávez's illness.

Advertisement

So far, not a whole lot is known about the exact allegations of espionage, or how Washington plans to respond. Maduro identified the American in question as an Air Force attache and said he'd have 24 hours "to pick up his bags and leave the country." Here's NPR's Two-Way with more on Maduro's "long, fiery speech" that he delivered on state TV today:

Maduro expanded little on the health of President Hugo Chávez, but he left little doubt that his condition was grave. He said that Chávez was living the most "difficult hours" since he went to Cuba for an operation in December. Maduro also repeated an accusation that Chávez himself made in 2011: That the United States was behind Chávez's cancer.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy later confirmed the identity of the attache as David Delmonaco to the Associated Press, although Delmonaco's rank and role remain unclear. "I'm sure we will be formulating some sort of response from Washington," the embassy spokesman told the AP.

The news came less than a day after Chávez's communication minister made a somber television appearance last night to warn that the nation's 58-year-old socialist leader is suffering from a new "severe infection." Chávez hasn't been seen nor heard from—with the sole exception of a few official photos released in the middle of last month—since he underwent another round of surgery in Cuba at the end of last year for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area, according to Reuters. The communication minister, Ernesto Villegas, said that Chávez is currently in Caracas' military hospital, where his condition is "very delicate" and he was "standing by Christ and life, conscious of the difficulties he faces."

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.