A former bodyguard of Venezuela’s Socialist Party heavyweight Diosdado Cabello Leamsy Salazar, who fled the country earlier this week and was reportedly collaborating with US authorities investigating allegations of Venezuelan officials' involvement in drugs, said late president Hugo Chavez did not die on 5 March 2013 but on 30 December 2012.
Ex ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAE) Guillermo Cochez said Salazar told officials in the US that the Venezuelan government covered the death of Chavez that took place on 30 December 2012 at 7.32 pm, prompting new accusations against the administration of Nicolás Maduro: if Salazar’s statements are true and Hugo Chávez died at that time, Venezuelan authorities would have signed several decrees under the name of the late populist leader.
On Tuesday, Venezuelan officials confirmed defection of Salazar but denied media reports his evidence to US investigators implicated the powerful official in running a drug ring.
A ruling party legislator confirmed the defection of a former security agent for Cabello, a powerful and combative ex-soldier who heads the National Assembly and is Venezuela's ruling party's No. 2.
He deserted from the armed forces in December and has emerged in the United States as a protected witness to defame, insult, and submit to public scorn the National Assembly's president, said Congressman Pedro Carreno, flanked by fellow legislators.
Nicolás Maduro's government leapt to the defense of Cabello, saying international media in cahoots with the United States were out to smear Venezuela.
Imperialist hands are behind this, Maduro said in a speech on Tuesday evening, referring to the claims against Cabello. A hell of solitude awaits whoever betrays the revolution.
The article, citing unnamed sources close to a US investigation, said Salazar, who apparently worked for the late Hugo Chávez for nearly a decade, has evidence about Cabello's role as head of an alleged military-run Sun Cartel.
Venezuelan officials have repeatedly denied accusations that such a cartel exists and demanded that evidence be shown.
The Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald, which like ABC takes a hostile line against Venezuela's government, also reported Salazar has turned on his former boss and is collaborating with US investigators, again citing anonymous sources.