HAVANA — Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, in Cuba for his latest cancer treatment, was firing off budget announcements via Twitter, adding fodder to opposition claims that he is governing by remote control.
Chavez on Thursday announced $500 million “to equip and modernize the Marine Corps,” $22.7 million for agricultural development, $255 million for “staff and operating costs” for the communications ministry and $106 million for the production of sugar cane, all via the microblogging website.
Chavez, long a mainstay on state media, has communicated almost exclusively via Twitter in recent weeks as he shuttled to Cuba and back for several rounds of cancer treatment, fueling speculation over his health.
The president’s last public appearance was Monday, when he signed a bill on the eve of the Labor Day holiday that would shorten the Venezuelan work week from 44 to 40 hours. He then traveled to Cuba for his latest treatment.
The opposition has demanded that the government be more transparent about Chavez’s health and accused him of relying on Twitter to govern the country.
Vice President Elias Jaua came to Chavez’s defense Thursday, saying that the ailing leader “fortunately” had access to social media in order to stay in constant contact.
“The president is not governing by way of electronic media but reporting the actions of the government,” he told local radio.
Chavez had a cancerous tumor removed from his pelvic area in June 2011. He underwent another surgery in February after it recurred and since then has made several trips to Cuba, his closest ally, for radiation treatment.
The government has yet to disclose what kind of cancer he suffers from.
Chavez, in power since 1999, is running for re-election as a “revolutionary Socialist” against Henrique Capriles, the youthful Miranda state governor and center-left candidate for the united opposition.
Chavez is the most prominent face of the left in Latin America and has rallied a group of like-minded leaders as a counterweight to the United States.
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