Editor’s note: Hugo Chávez died today at 4:20 pm, three hours after this story was posted.
(posted March 5, 1:30 p.m.)- First lady Rosario Murillo said Nicaragua is sending its “love, respect and solidarity in these difficult hours” to ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose health has reportedly taken a dramatic turn for the worse.
Speaking on Sandinista television this afternoon following the complete live broadcast in of Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro’s lengthy and desperate-sounding national address from Caracas, Murillo spoke with uncharacteristic brevity and focus, pledging Nicaragua’s love and support for Chávez, who seems to be in his final hours after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“Nicaragua loves President Hugo Chávez and is in prayer for his health and the comfort and strength of his family,” Murillo said today. “We are convinced and confident that the revolution led by Comandante President Hugo Chávez Frias will continue forward. We are absolutely convinced it will continue forward.”
Murillo, whose typical daily monologues can last upwards of 15 minutes and touch on a whole range of loosely related topics, only spoke for five minutes today and addressed only the issue of Chávez’s health. She said Sandinista Youth and other party groups will be organizing events later this afternoon to express their solidarity with Chávez, who hasn’t been seen in public since Dec. 11, when he went to Cuba for his fourth cancer surgery.
Murillo’s words came after Maduro’s lengthy and repetitive live speech to political and military leaders of the Venezuelan government. Maduro, who warned incessantly about right-wing plots and foreign conspiracies to destabilize the country, seemed rather destabilized himself as he lashed out repeatedly at the opposition, accusing them of being “traitors” and “enemies of the country” who were conspiring to create chaos in Venezuela to justify a foreign intervention by the “imperialists.” As proof of the international conspiracy, Maduro announced his government has expelled U.S. embassy official David Delmonaco for plotting to destabilize the country.
Maduro also talked about forming a specialized scientific commission to prove that Chávez’s cancer was the result of an “attack by his enemies.” Maduro said his government already has “lots of clues” to prove that Chávez’s cancer was some sort of act of biological warfare against the Venezuelan revolutionary leader.
Maduro’s noon address, which was broadcast live on Sandinista media outlets instead of their regular news coverage, was filled with vitriol attacks against the opposition and ominous warnings that the government of Venezuela “will do everything” to “guarantee peace” in Venezuela.
Maduro called on the youth and workers of Venezuela to remain united and mobilized in the streets to defend the revolution. He called for “prayer and action” and said any efforts to create chaos in the country will be “defeated absolutely.”
“Our revolutionary project is stronger than ever,” Maduro said. Then, talking slightly faster, Maduro said Chávez is “in his most difficult moment since Dec. 11.”