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

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.

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.


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."

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



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Gives Fetuses Lawyers and Puts Teenage Girls on Trial

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Big Problems With the Secret Service Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.


Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
Oct. 2 2014 12:58 PM Why Can’t States Do More to Protect Patients From Surprise Medical Bills? It’s complicated.
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 2 2014 1:05 PM What's Wrong With "America's Ugliest Accent"
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 2 2014 12:37 PM St. Louis Study Confirms That IUDs Are the Key to Lowering Teen Pregnancy Rates
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 1:29 PM Want to Know What Makes David Fincher Great? Focus on What He Doesn’t Do.
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 1:22 PM If Someone Secretly Controlled What You Say, Would You Notice? What cyranoid experiments reveal about how people act.  
  Health & Science
Oct. 2 2014 12:53 PM The Panic Virus How public health officials are keeping Americans calm about the Ebola threat.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?