US slams "reprehensible" Chavez cancer remark

The US today rubbished as "reprehensible" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's allegation that it could be behind a rash of cancer cases among Latin America's left-wing leaders.

Chavez, himself afflicted with cancer, had alleged that the US could be behind growing incidence of cancer among Latin American leaders though he did not offer any proof. Chavez made the allegations in a speech on Wednesday in which he expressed "solidarity" with Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner, whose office announced this week she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

President of Paraguay Fernando Lugo, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have been diagnosed with cancer. Commenting on Chavez's remarks, the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said they were "horrific and reprehensible." She said they were not worthy of further response.

"With regard to the Chavez statements, let me simply say that they are horrific and reprehensible," she told reporters. The Venezuelan president, known for his firm anti-US stance, has repeatedly said Washington is trying to destabilise his government.

"Would it be strange if (the US) had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to know it?" the 57-year-old outspoken leader had asked. Even "with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America... it's strange, very strange," he said.

Chavez cited the revelation this year that the US, between 1946 and 1948, had carried out human experiments in Guatemala where subjects were exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.
"I don't know. I'm just putting the thought out there," Chavez said.

He also joked that he would now take extra care of the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador - Evo Morales and Rafael Correa - lest they also be diagnosed with cancer. Chavez says he is now free of cancer after having surgery and chemotherapy in Cuba earlier this year.

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