Latin America & Caribbean

US rejects Hugo Chavez remarks on Latin America cancer

Peruvian shamans perform a good luck ritual over a picture of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez
Image caption Peruvian shamans have invoked supernatural powers to speed Mr Chavez's recovery

The US has rejected comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in which he questioned whether the US might be responsible for cancers affecting Latin American leaders.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the comments "horrific and reprehensible".

She said they were not worthy of further response.

On Wednesday Mr Chavez said it was "very strange" that he and other leftist leaders had all had cancer.

But he said he was thinking out loud and not making "rash accusations".

Mr Chavez - who had cancer treatment in Cuba this year - was speaking a day after it was announced that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner also had the disease.

Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have also had cancer.

Mr Chavez said the instances of cancer among Latin American leaders were "difficult to explain using the law of probabilities".

"Would it be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it?" Mr Chavez asked in a televised speech to soldiers at an army base.

Recovery

The Venezuelan leader, 57, says he is now free of cancer after having surgery and chemotherapy in Cuba earlier this year.

The exact details of his illness have not been made public, fuelling speculation that his condition may be worse than he has let on.

Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, 58, is due to have surgery for thyroid cancer on 4 January. Doctors say her prognosis is very good.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, 64, is fully recovered after having treatment for lymphoma in 2009.

Her predecessor, Lula da Silva, 66, is currently having treatment for throat cancer. Doctors say he is responding well and should make a full recovery.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, 60, was diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2010 but is now in remission after chemotherapy.

More on this story