Hugo Chavez: Formal inquiry into poisoning claims

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VENEZUELA is to 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 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 Mr Chavez himself after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.

“We will seek the truth,” Mr Maduro said in a TV interview. “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, he said Mr Maduro, 50, is Mr Chavez’s handpicked successor and is running as the government’s candidate in a snap presidential election on 14 April triggered by Mr Chavez’s death last week.

Mr Maduro is trying to keep voters’ attention firmly focused on Mr Chavez to benefit from the outpouring of grief among his millions of supporters. The opposition, led by centre-left state governor, Henrique Capriles, is centring its campaign on portraying Mr Maduro, a former bus driver, as an incompetent exploiting Mr Chavez’s demise.