Venezuela VP: Chavez's cancer was an 'attack' by his enemies: By Tracy Connor, Staff Writer, NBC News
Hours before Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died, his second-in-command accused enemies of giving him cancer and announced the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats for an alleged plot to destabilize the government.
"There's no doubt that Commandante Chavez's health came under attack by the enemy," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in an address to the nation from the presidential palace.
"The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,'' according to Maduro, drawing a parallel to the illness and 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, which some supporters blamed on poisoning by Israeli agents.
He said a special commission would investigate how Chavez, 58, ended up with the unspecified cancer that months of chemotherapy and radiation and four surgeries failed to tame.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement it was "absurd" to suggest that the U.S. was somehow involved in Chavez's illness.
The allegation was made against a backdrop of diplomatic tension, with Caracas announcing that two American Air Force attachés had been given 24 hours to leave the country.
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