US slams Chavez cancer remark
Washington - The US State Department on Thursday chastised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's "reprehensible" allegation that the United States could be giving cancer to Latin American leaders.
Without providing any evidence to back up his claim, Chavez posed the rhetorical question "Would it be that strange if they had developed technology to induce cancer without anyone knowing about it?" at a ceremony for the national armed forces on Wednesday.
His comments prompted condemnation from State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
"With regard to the Chavez statements, let me simply say that they are horrific and reprehensible," she told reporters.
Chavez made the allegations against his arch-foe in a speech in which he expressed "solidarity" with Argentine leader Cristina Kirchner, whose office announced this week she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Even "with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America... it's strange, very strange", said Chavez, who has himself waged a successful battle against cancer.
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Paraguay's Fernando Lugo have all been diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
Rousseff and Lugo say they are cancer-free. Lula is undergoing treatment.