Hugo Chavez Dies: Rumor Circulates That Venezuelan Leader Is Dead, But Report Is Disputed

Nathan Francis

Hugo Chavez has died, a politician from Panama said Wednesday in a report that has been vigorously disputed.

Gillermo Cochez told CNNChile that Chavez was declared brain dead in Cuba and returned to Venezeula. The report appears to be hazy, as Cochez said he heard the news from "sources within the Venezuelan government" and that the information has been circulating for weeks.

Cochez said that Hugo Chavez actually died four days ago after his daughters disconnected the ventilator, which was keeping him alive.

The reports of Chavez's death have been strongly disputed however. The Atlantic Wire noted that Cochez is the only one who has reported that Chavez is brain dead and that his daughters decided to pull the plug.

Even Cochez's own statements to CNNChile appear to be flimsy. He told the news outlet: "I challenge the Venezuelan government to prove me wrong, and to present President Chavez so that it's known whether what I say is the truth or a lie." The tone makes it sound more like Cochez is fishing for information or trying to get a reaction out of the Venezuelan government than relaying news.

While Hugo Chavez may not have died yet, the leader is in ill health. He has been struggling with cancer for a while and been unable to make public appearances, even to his own inauguration.

If Cochez's report turns out to be false, this would not be the first time a fictitious rumor circulated that Hugo Chavez died. Back in January MSN ran a story about rumors circulating at the time that Chavez succumbed to his cancer.