Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez died Tuesday after fighting cancer for nearly two years. But, NBC said, just hours before he died, Vice President Nicolas Maduro blamed "enemies" of Venezuela for giving Chavez cancer and announced that two U.S. diplomats would be expelled from the country for an alleged plot to destabilize the regime.
"There's no doubt that Commandante Chavez's health came under attack by the enemy," Madura said.
"The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,'' he added, comparing Chavez's death to the illness and eventual death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, which some blamed on Israel.
Madura said that a special commission would investigate Chavez' death.
“We’re after other forces that are also conspiring in this poisonous effort. They’re trying to create disruption. They have taken all possible measures to hurt our economy,” he added.
NBC said that State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell called the accusations "absurd."
According to Madura, two Air Force attachés were given 24 hours to leave the country, but one of those he named -- Devlin Kostal -- is already in the United States.
Nevertheless, Madura accused him and David Delmonaco of "spying and meeting with Venezuelan military officials for nefarious purposes," NBC said.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale denied the charges and said that Delmonaco would be leaving the country.
"We completely reject the Venezuelan government's claim that the United States is involved in any type of conspiracy to destabilize Venezuela government," he said.
NBC observed that Chavez "saw conspiracies everywhere."
In 2008, for example, he claimed the united States was orchestrating a military coup and expelled the ambassador.
A post at the Heritage Foundation warned that "wild accusations" made by Chavez's successors "have the potential to cause a bloodbath."
"The Obama Administration needs to act swiftly and sternly to rebut this outlandish claim, rally international support, and prepare to protect American lives and property, as well that of innocent Venezuelans," Ray Walser wrote.
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