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Venezuela: Recording of 'kidnapped' Chavez is fake, president says

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 2:00 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
People train stick fight in front of a mural depicting late Venezuelan former President Hugo Chavez, August, 18, 2013.
People train stick fight in front of a mural depicting late Venezuelan former President Hugo Chavez, August, 18, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A recording purports to be Hugo Chavez saying he's still alive
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the recording is fake
  • He accuses right-wing opponents of producing it

(CNN) -- Venezuela's president says right-wing opponents have unleashed a new weapon in their push to destabilize his government and demoralize his supporters: an imitation of Hugo Chavez's voice.

An audio recording widely circulated on social media purports to be the late Venezuelan leader saying he's still alive.

The recording comes nearly seven months after authorities announced Chavez's death from cancer and just a few months before municipal elections in the politically polarized South American country.

President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday that the recording implying that Chavez has been kidnapped is fake, and he isn't taking it lightly.

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"These people have no ethical limit, they have no moral limit, they have no scruples," Maduro said in televised remarks at a United Socialist Party of Venezuela event.

The recording purports to be a message from Chavez to his brother. A voice that sounds like Chavez says he is recovering, that his death was a lie and that he is "more alive than ever."

J.J. Rendon, a Miami-based political strategist who Maduro alleged was tied to the audio recording, fired back in a series of Twitter posts.

"All your insults are compliments to me! Do you like to please me? Keep attacking me," he wrote.

"I challenge that you -- beyond threats, lies and insults -- PROVE just one crime at least! You have no way to do that! Because there isn't any!"

Maduro became Venezuela's interim leader after Chavez's March 5 death and was sworn in as president after a narrow election victory in April.

Maduro's remarks Saturday are the latest in a series of accusations alleging plots to destabilize his government or assassinate him. He has made at least 11 such accusations since the beginning of his presidency, CNN en Español reported last week.

Maduro canceled his plans to travel to New York and attend the U.N. General Assembly last week because of what he said were plots to physically harm him there.

Gabriel Reyes, a Venezuela-based political analyst, told CNN en Español last week that there could be another motivation behind the accusations.

Both Chavez and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro often made such claims, he said.

"Maduro as a pupil of both of them cannot do anything other than using assassination as a sort of alternative distracting agenda," he said.

Journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.

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