Hugo Chávez: Is the US giving Latin American leaders cancer?

The Venezuelan leader ponders whether the US could have "developed a technology to induce cancer".

Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez, has been diagnosed with cancer -- and the news has been met with suspicion by Hugo Chávez.

The Venezulan leader, who was treated for cancer earlier this year, wonders whether the US could be to blame. In a televised speech to soldiers at an army base, he said:

Would it be strange if they had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to know it?

Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and her predecessor, Lula da Silva, have also battled cancer in recent years. While Chávez was careful to say that he didn't want to "make any reckless accusations", he said that he finds the number of cancer cases "very, very, very strange".

He noted that US government scientists had infected Guatemalan prisoners with syphilis and other diseases in the 1940s, which only came to light recently, and joked that he'd take extra care of the presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador lest they be struck down with cancer too.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.