By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Despite his claims of being cancer-free, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is so seriously threatened by the disease that he has less than a year to live in the opinion of Russian doctors, according to a report from a Texas-based private intelligence firm released today by WikiLeaks.
The intelligence memo, written in December 2011 by Reva Bhalla of the firm Stratfor, describes Chavez’ condition as “very serious” and says a team of Russian doctors blames Cuban doctors for botching an earlier attempt to remove a tumor, which started near the prostate gland, spread to the colon and lymph nodes, and into the bone marrow up to the spine.
If Chavez’ health deteriorates significantly before the October election, he will likely appoint Foreign Minister Nicolas Faduro to take his place, the memo states. Maduro is described as “loyal as a dog to Chavez,” but also “the most pragmatic in the regime,” who would be more open to the United States.
The memo is one of 5 million emails from Stratfor obtained by the hacktivist group Anonymous and published by WikiLeaks in conjunction with 20 news organizations from around the world. Those released so far “are a mix of the innocuous and the embarrassing,” said the Washington Post, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said juicier material was in store in coming weeks.
The email concerning Chavez’ cancer, dated Dec. 5, 2011, was based on information from an unnamed “well-connected VZ source working with Israel” whose information on Venezuela has proved valid in the past, according to the memo’s author.
Chavez, 57, has returned to Havana, where he underwent an operation in June, for more surgery. Last week, he told supporters that the tumor in his pelvic region had returned, was “most likely malignant,” and he was “preparing to face the worst.”
The socialist leader, whose regime is closely watched by many in Florida, has both Russian and Cuban doctors on his medical team — and they are seriously at odds, according to the leaked memo. The Cubans give Chavez two years to live. The Russians say he’s got just one year. They had to do a second surgery to clean up the Cuban surgeons’ alleged mistakes, and the Russians complain that Cuba’s doctors lack the right imagery therapy to properly treat Chavez, the memo says.
“The medical team complains that Chavez is a very ‘bad patient,’ ” the memo states. “He doesn’t listen to his doctors, he ceases treatment when he has to make a public appearance.”
The doctors themselves squabbled over Chavez’ consultations with a Chinese physician who advocated natural treatments and, the memo states, “the Russians are saying this is horse shit treatment.”
The memo adds, with sardonic humor: “Only Chavez can get the most politicized medical team in the world.”