Venezuela's unpredictable dictator appeals to Jesus to heal his cancer

He's been tied to narco-terrorism, al-Qaida, the Taliban and widespread corruption. Now, Hugo Chavez appears on national TV pleading with Jesus to heal his cancer that has defied Cuban doctors.

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Christian workers were forced to leave remote tribal areas and other pulled out after Chavez officials warned that they, too, would be expelled and banned from working with indigenous tribes if they did not leave voluntarily.

Chavez called the Christian missionaries “part of a broader conspiracy in Washington to topple a president whose regional influence is growing thanks to massive oil revenues,” reported BBC’s Simon Watts. “U.S. officials clearly do not like Chavez much, but they strongly deny any plot and it is also hard to tell how genuinely the Venezuelan president believes what he says.

“Like his friend Fidel Castro, Chavez thrives on conflict and finds it politically useful to portray himself as a victim of U.S. aggression.”

“The Associated Press’ Christopher Toothaker has a long and fascinating look at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez,” reported Molly Hemingway a few days ago for GetReligion.org.  “Let’s get right into it. Here’s the top of the piece:

“CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has spent much of his career praising the socialist ideas of famed atheists such as Karl Marx and Fidel Castro. Now in the thick of a prolonged battle against cancer, however, the leftist leader is drawing inspiration more than ever from a spiritual leader: Jesus Christ.

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“Chavez has been praying for divine intervention during increasingly infrequent appearances on television, holding up a crucifix while vowing to overcome his illness. He says living with cancer has made him ‘more Christian.’”

His voice cracking with emotion, “‘I’m sure our Christ will do it again, continuing making the miracle,’ Chavez said as he raised his cross to his lips and kissed it, prompting applause from an audience of aides.

“If Chavez survives cancer, political analysts say his increasing religiosity could pay election-year dividends in a country where Catholicism remains influential.”

“And,” observes Hemingway, “it goes on like that for a while. The report is detailed and includes quite a bit of perspective from analysts (including of the skeptical variety). He’s apparently become quite outspoken about his faith, even crying during a televised Mass with relatives. The article is illustrated with a picture of Chavez holding up a crucifix and kissing it.”

“The story of Hugo Chávez’s presidency in Venezuela since he first

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