“Despicable rat,” Mario Silva, the caustic host of “The Razor” on state television, said of Bocaranda.
“Perhaps someone pays him to write his lies?” asked Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly.
Andres Izarra, the government’s information minister, called Bocaranda’s revelations part of a “psychological war, a war of rumors,” and said that Chavez has dealt with the situation “with total transparency.”
And to a degree, the president has, telling the nation he had a tumor removed in June in Cuba, followed by chemotherapy. Chavez also announced he had been cured of cancer — until a recurrence sent him back to Cuba for a third surgery that took place on Feb. 26.
On Friday, 19 days later, Chavez returned to Venezuela, sounding optimistic about a future that includes a challenging reelection campaign against a young and spirited opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles.
“I am going to live, we are going to live, we are going to continue to overcome,” said Chavez, 57, in a half-hour address televised nationwide.
Bocaranda, though, said the government has revealed little, noting that Chavez still has not said what kind of tumor he had or where it was located. He said the president’s health is fair game, explaining that Chavez is an omnipresent figure who controls all Venezuelan institutions.
“This is a man who is the whole government, the man who has the whole congress, the whole supreme court, everything, all the powers,” Bocaranda, 66, who wears heavy glasses and slicks his gray hair back, said in an interview after his nightly radio show. “I think that is why his health is most important for us.”
With only Chavez himself releasing information about his cancer, the country has become rife with rumors as Venezuelans argue over whether the president will be able to carry out a grueling campaign schedule.
“I think this is classic,” said Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster and political analyst. “When a society faces a vacuum of information over an issue that is relevant, then it fills the vacuum with rumors.”
In one of the president’s strongholds — a vast neighborhood of towering apartment blocks called 23 of January for the date in 1958 when Venezuela’s last dictator was ousted — residents on a recent day drank beer at an open-air restaurant and argued over how the president should handle his privacy vs. the public’s need to know.
“The president’s health worries everyone and more so because he’s the top leader, the No. 1 authority,” said Felix Garcia, a former sportswriter who, like many here, is on a state payroll. “Still, I think, there is a privacy issue, privacy for anyone, even Chavez.”