Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez squelched rumors that he had died while undergoing cancer treatments in Cuba by telephoning Venezuelan state TV on Monday to assert that he is indeed alive.
It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war, Chavez told the station.
Earlier, senior government officials in Venezuela denied rumors that Chavez has passed away in Cuba.
Reuters reported that (prior to his phone call to the TV station) over the past nine days that he had been in Havana, Chavez -- whose health has long been a concern -- had sent only two messages on Twitter, an unusually lengthy period of silence for such a talkative leader.
Moreover, neither Venezuelan nor Cuban media have released any recent photos of the socialist leader as they have during his previous jaunts to Havana.
On his Twitter account, Chavez wrote: “If they knew the tremendous fish soup I made for lunch! With rice and plantains! Sorry if some have not eaten lunch!”
He also tweeted: “And soon they will see me again!”
Chavez has almost 3 million followers on his Twitter account.
Venezuela is also preparing for a presidential election in October – a poll which Chavez has vowed to win. The 57-year-old leader has served as president of Venezuela for 13 years and wants another six-year term.
Henrique Capriles, the leading presidential candidate for the opposition, has again criticized Chavez for running the country from Havana and for not disclosing the full nature and extent of his illness.
Governing by Twitter, approving laws by Twitter without consulting anybody, is an insult to our people. The country's problems cannot be resolved by Twitter, Capriles said.
Chavez remains popular with much of the Venezuelan public, particularly the poor. The latest polls indicate he enjoys a nearly 20 percent advantage over Capriles.