But Maduro also used the occasion to dust off one of Chávez’s own theories: that a rash of presidential cancer in the region may have been part of a bioweapons program.
“We don’t have any doubts that the day will come when we can gather a scientific commission that will show that Commander Chávez was attacked with this illness,” Maduro said. “We have no doubt that our historic enemies have been trying to hurt President Chávez’s health.”
Ventrell said any suggestion that the U.S. was “somehow involved in causing President Chávez’s illness is absurd, and we definitively reject it.”
Chávez first announced he had cancer in June 2011, saying doctors in Cuba had removed a baseball sized tumor from his pelvic region. He underwent at least four surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.
Chávez was last seen publically on Dec. 10, when he boarded the presidential aircraft to undergo his final surgery in Cuba. After the procedure, the administration said he developed a severe lung infection that required a tracheotomy and made it difficult for him to speak. On Feb 18, he was spirited back into the country, unannounced and under the cover of darkness. At the time, Maduro suggested his return was a sign that he was on the mend.
And many here thought El Comandante would bounce back like he had before.
Nicolas Pereira, a 40-year-old telecom worker, said that despite all the bad news he expected Chávez to survive.
“Hope,” he said, “is always the very last things to die.”
Miami Herald staff writers Carol Rosenberg and Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report from Miami.