Venezuela to ‘Probe’ Chavez Cancer ‘Poisoning’ Accusation

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -

Venezuela 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, the government said.

The accusation has been derided by critics of the government, who view it as a typical Chavez-style conspiracy theory intended to feed fears of “imperialist” threats to Venezuela’s socialist system and distract people from daily problems.

Still, acting President Nicolas Maduro vowed to push through a serious investigation into the claim, which was first raised by Chavez himself after he was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.

“We will seek the truth,” Maduro told regional news network Telesur late on Monday. “We have the intuition that our commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way.”

Foreign scientists will be invited to join a government commission to probe the accusation, the OPEC nation’s acting leader said.

Maduro, 50, is Chavez’s handpicked successor and is running as the government’s candidate in a snap presidential election on April 14 that was triggered by his boss’s death last week.

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.