Maduro accuses opposition of faking Chavez audio tape

The Guardian, CARACAS

Tue, Oct 01, 2013 - Page 7

When former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died eight months ago, hundreds of thousands of bereaved Venezuelans flocked past his open coffin to say their final good-byes. It is no surprise then a recording of the late leader claiming to be alive would cause a stir.

In the audio recording, a voice similar to Chavez’s says he is being held captive against his will, accusing his former friends of betraying him.

It has been heard more than 300,000 times since its release on Friday last week, prompting Venuezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to declare it the latest attempt by the opposition to destabilize the government.

Maduro, chosen by Chavez as his preferred successor, accused the main opposition party, Primero Justicia, of faking the clip in which a weakened Chavez calls his brother, Adan Chavez, a state governor, to say he is alive.

“They [the opposition] have no respect for the memory and the love that the Venezuelan people have for Hugo Chavez and they are capable of inventing these recordings,” Maduro said over the weekend.

The voice claiming to be Chavez says he is convalescing and that his closest friends betrayed him. It also pleads with his brother to tell Venezuelans the truth.

“Who would have thought our enemy was within? How many hugs they gave me, how many handshakes and how many lies,” the voice says. “I want you to tell the boys, that today, September 16, I am more alive than ever.”

The recording’s veracity was firmly denied by Adan Chavez.

“This disgusting montage has prompted some to believe that Chavez didn’t die and that he is hiding. Others think that this recording was done before his death. It is all a great lie,” Adan Chavez said.

“Hugo Chavez was buried alongside the love of his loyal and revolutionary people and he never sent me a message of this type,” he said.

Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said the release of this recording was a political tactic aimed at discouraging United Socialist party supporters from voting in the December elections.

“This is clearly to demoralize our people, to inhibit them like they did in the April polls,” Cabello said of the presidential elections that gave Maduro a slim victory over opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

However, several political analysts suggest the recording could have been released by the government.

“It is fundamental to monopolize the control [of Chavez’s image]. It also appears clear that this is an opportunity to blame the opposition of an attempt to destabilize with which they maintain a polarization that benefits them,” says Luis Vicente Leon, a leading political consultant.