Bloomberg News

Doctor Who Warned of Chavez Death Says He Had to Flee Venezuela

October 21, 2011

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- A Venezuelan doctor who claimed that President Hugo Chavez has less than two years to live because of cancer said he was forced to flee the country.

Dr. Salvador Navarrete, who said he was Chavez’s doctor in 2002, said in an interview in the Oct. 16 edition of the Mexico City-based daily Milenio that the president has a retroperitoneal sarcoma and is unlikely to survive the next two years. In a letter published today in the Caracas-based daily Tal Cual, Navarrete said the publication of the interview had forced him to leave the country with his family. He went public to help the country prepare for the “traumatic” event, he said.

“It worries me that the president and his political advisers don’t understand the magnitude of his illness,” Salvador Navarrete wrote in a letter published in the Caracas- based daily Tal Cual. His “passing away in this moment could be more traumatic than the politicians may think.”

In the interview with Milenio, Navarrete said he met with other doctors of the Chavez family to share information and came to the diagnosis of sarcoma. In the letter, Navarrete said he drew his conclusions from publicly available information.

“It’s no more than a clinical exercise that any professional working in medicine can come to in order to arrive at a probable -- and never definitive -- diagnosis and prognosis,” he said in the letter.

Baseball-Sized

Chavez, who has declined to reveal exactly what kind of cancer he has except to say that he had a baseball-sized tumor removed from his pelvic area, said yesterday he’s “free of illness” after returning from Cuba, where he underwent tests. The 57-year-old paratrooper says he’ll take part in elections next year where he hopes to win by “knockout” and secure a third consecutive six-year term.

While acknowledging that he had spoken to Milenio, Navarrete said he thought the journalist was writing a book about Latin American leaders and that much of what he said would not be published.

Navarrete fled to Mexico after intelligence agents visited his clinical practice, Tal Cual said yesterday. The Communications Ministry did not immediately return a call from Bloomberg News asking for comment.

--Editors: Philip Sanders, Harry Maurer

To contact the reporter on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.


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