- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Given the CIA’s history of intrigue in Latin America, it may not be particularly surprising that the region’s leaders are sensitive to signs of U.S. meddling in their countries’ internal affairs. But sometimes the conspiracy theories seem pretty outlandish. In July, for example, Bolivian leader Evo Morales expressed concern that U.S. authorities would plant something on his presidential plane when he traveled to New York for the U.N. General Assembly in order to link him with drug trafficking.
Well, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has previously accused the United States of fomenting coups against him, topped Morales’ claim today. Reflecting on Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer, Chavez noted that it was "strange, very strange" that he, Kirchner, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and Rousseff’s predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, had all battled cancer in recent years.
You can see where this is going. Citing revelations this year about the United States carrying out medical experiments in Guatemala in the late 1940s in which subjects were deliberately exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, Chavez wondered whether it would come to light in 50 years that America had developed technology to spread cancer and brandish it as a weapon against its enemies, according to Bloomberg. "Evo take care of yourself, Correa, be careful," Chavez added, in reference to the leaders of Bolivia and Ecuador.
Chavez also said that Cuba’s Fidel Castro had warned him of this very scenario. "Fidel always tells me, ‘Chavez be careful, they’ve developed technology, be careful with what you eat, they could stick you with a small needle,’" he explained.
But, after all the insinuation, Chavez made sure to clarify that he had no proof for these charges. "I don’t want to make any rash accusations," Radio Nacional de Venezuela quoted the Venezuelan leader as saying.