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Venezuela's Information minister resigns after burnt soldier's death

Editorial from El Universal

Presenting himself as responsible for the mistake made by President Hugo Chávez in his Sunday radio-television program about the seriousness of the injuries suffered by a group of soldiers in a fire at a military base in Maracaibo, Zulia state, Communication and Information Minister Jesse Chacón offered to resign his office Monday night.

Chacón called a press conference to read a communiqué admitting that his team had given the president wrong information that led him to say in his "Hello, President!" program that the soldiers only had "light injuries."

This report, Chacón added, "misrepresented the real state of these injured fellow countrymen, as while some of them were released because their injuries were light, others had burns of a greater consideration."

"Understanding that the origin of the misinformation is solely within the responsibility of the office under my direction, I have made the decision to offer my resignation to the president at this moment," Chacón said in his message.

The final decision is now in the hands of the president, but at the same time Chacón said that his resignation is unchangeable.

However, he commented that he will continue being a public servant and reaffirmed his commitment to Chávez' political project.

Chacón also apologized with the families of the injured soldiers for the discomfort that the treatment of the information may have caused.

Background

On March 30, eight soldiers suffered severe burns during a fire in a cell of the Fuerte Mara military facility in Zulia state.

The authorities of the base said that the fire had been ignited by a cigarette accidentally left on a mattress, but President Chávez' opponents immediately argued that it had been a retaliation against the young officers for signing a recall petition against him.

The families requested a balanced investigation on the case, saying that other soldiers failed to assist the victims during the fire.

On Sunday night, hours after Chávez dismissed the opposition's allegations, saying that the soldiers had "light injuries," one of the soldiers, named Orlando Bustamante, 20, died for profound burns in a military hospital of Caracas.

Political treatment

Chacón also accused the "the opposition's media" of irresponsibly relating the case to "hypothetical retaliations for a presumed and denied participation of (the soldiers) in a signature collection process against the president".

He added that "taking advantage of the suffering of the Venezuelans with political purpose is deplorable and is taking us by a bad path." Translated by Edgardo Malaver



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