Probe into Chavez poison claims
Venezuela's interim leader has opened an investigation into the death of Hugo Chavez, amid speculation the late president's cancer was the result of an elaborate poisoning plot by foreign enemies.
The acting president, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, said: "We have the intuition that our commander Chavez was poisoned by dark forces that wanted him out of the way . . . everything seems to indicate that they affected his health using the most advanced techniques."
Mr Chavez, who died last week aged 58, voiced similar suspicions after he was first diagnosed with the disease in his pelvic region in June 2011.
Speaking to the BBC, the country's Oil Minister, Rafael Ramirez, explicitly accused the United States and Israel of responsibility for Mr Chavez's demise.
In the hours before the president's death was announced, Mr Maduro expelled two diplomats from the US embassy in Caracas, claiming they were part of a plot to "destabilise Venezuela".
However, the country's opposition sees the claims as a scaremongering tactic designed to hold the electorate's attention in the run-up to a snap presidential election on April 14.
The opposition leader Henrique Capriles has accused the socialist government of exploiting Mr Chavez's memory for political gain.
Mr Maduro also said that it was highly unlikely Chavez will be embalmed for permanent viewing because the decision to do so was made too late and the socialist leader's body was not properly prepared on time.
"The decision should have been made much earlier," Nicolas Maduro said during a speech at a government-run book fair.
"The decision, or really the proposal more than a decision, was made as a product of love."
Chavez's embalmed body was to be put on display at a military museum on a hill a mile from the presidential palace. Maduro suggested the body would still be placed there. (© Independent News Service)