Last week Venezuelan President for Life Hugo Chavez suggested the U.S. government gave him cancer. This is a nutty statement even for a guy who makes nutty statements for a living. Normal, sane people prefer to accuse large U.S. companies of giving them cancer, mostly because they -- unlike the federal government -- are not generally $15 trillion in debt.
Venezuela's socialist leader did not say if the U.S. also infected him with dementia and paranoia, but you can judge for yourself.
Chavez also suggested the United States has given cancer to four other leftist South American leaders, both current and former. Why the U.S. would waste its time giving former leaders cancer is unclear. After all, plenty of current leftist leaders -- like Bolivia's Evo Morales and Uruguay's José Mujica -- remain cancer-free. Not to mention the Castro Brothers, who the U.S. has been trying to do in for nearly half a century.
In one of his interminable weekly television addresses Chavez reportedly mused: "It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now."
Actually, it would be strange. Cancer is increasingly curable. If the United States really wanted to give a leftist leader a terminal disease, we would probably choose something without a cure. Like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or, according to my 12-year-old niece, Justin Bieber fever.
Besides, we have had the technology to induce cancer for centuries. It's called smoking. Chavez, who suffers from colorectal cancer, is a bloated, overweight chain-smoker, all risk factors for this particular disease. So is heavy drinking. I'm not sure if el Pineapple Head is a rummy, but that would certainly explain many of his statements.
For Chavez the smoking gun was a recent report that comely Argentinean President Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner (shown here getting a healthy squeeze from U.S. President Barack Obama) has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Miss Argentina joins Paraguay's "Red Bishop" Fernando Lugo (diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma), Brazil's frumpy former Marxist Dilma Rousseff (lymphoma), Brazil's ex-leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (throat cancer) in the South American cancer ward.
Perhaps the obvious reason all these lefty leaders have cancer has to do with the third-world health care in socialist countries. Note that the rulers of free market-friendly Colombia and the three "Guianas" are doing quite well, thank you.
CHAVEZ IS KNOWN for many things -- political gangsterism, muzzling the press -- but he is most famous for his wacky conspiracy theories, many of which involve the capitalist gringos to the north. He has blamed U.S. weapons tests for the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Back in 2005, he compared Halloween to terrorism because American parents disguise their kids as witches. (Don't ask me, I'm just reporting what he said.) Another time Chavez proclaimed Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe a "freedom fighter." Yet all this nonsense pales before his weirdest fantasy, his theory that capitalism destroyed Mars. (It is statements like this that render satire obsolete.) Let's assume Chavez has some inside information and there "had been civilization on Mars." Isn't Mars known as "the red planet"? In that case, doesn't it seem much more likely that communism and not capitalism destroyed the planet?
Usually the U.S. simply ignores Chavez's nutty rants. But for some reason the State Department felt the need to issue a statement regarding Chavez' allegations. A spokesperson called the allegations "horrific and reprehensible."
Hmmm, that's really not a denial, is it?
Too bad America lacked the technology to inflict horrible diseases years ago. Imagine all the discomfort we could have given the 20th century's most evil dictators. Just for sport, we could have infected Joe Stalin with scarlet fever. Hitler and his cronies certainly deserved a severe case of the German measles. And Chairman Mao surely earned a dose of the Hong Kong Flu. If nothing else this would have kept them preoccupied with something other than slaughtering their own (and other) people.
I can't say I will miss Hugo when he finally departs his socialist paradise for the next. Certainly Venezuelans will be better off. But I sure will miss his wacky sense of humor -- however unintentional it is.