Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela accuses media of health scare conspiracy

AP, CARACAS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday accused CNN and other international media outlets of conspiring against his government by publishing what he called false reports of a mysterious illness.

The head of the college of physicians in the city of Maracay sounded an alarm last week after reporting that eight people had died of unknown causes hours after checking into a hospital with similar symptoms, including high fevers and blotches on their skin.

Authorities immediately accused the doctor of lying and said all causes of deaths had been determined, but that did not stop some Venezuelans — especially government opponents — from taking to social media Web sites to denounce the outbreak as an unknown epidemic and even speculating that the Ebola virus that has killed hundreds in west Africa had arrived on South America’s shores.

The health scare has since cooled, but Maduro said he would not tolerate any “psychological terror” from foreign media companies, which he accuses of misreporting the deaths.

While he named a number of media outlets for sowing panic, including the Miami Herald and the BBC’s Spanish-language service, the president said he was considering pursuing legal action against CNN en Espanol, which devoted an entire program to the deaths. The network has yet to comment.

“These acts must be severely punished,” Maduro said in an address broadcast on national TV and radio. “Venezuela in the past few hours, the past few days, has received attacks like we have not seen in 15 years of revolution.”

Partly fueling Venezuelans concerns is a dramatic increase in mosquito-borne illnesses around the Caribbean. The Venezuelan Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday that so far this year it has detected 398 cases of chikungunya virus and more than 45,745 people infected with dengue fever.

Both diseases rarely prove fatal when detected early, but Venezuela’s economic problems have led to widespread shortages of medical supplies and medicines, making it harder for physicians to treat patients.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top