Venezuela: Top Maduro Henchman Diosdado Cabello Claims to Have Coronavirus

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - JANUARY 24: President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro (R) talks to President of the Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello (L) before talkig to judges and members of the Supreme Justice Tribunal on its annual opening day of sessions on January 24 in Caracas, Venezuela. Yesterday opposition leader and head …
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Diosdado Cabello – a senior member of Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime, state television personality, and believed to be one of Venezuela’s most powerful drug lords – tweeted Thursday that he has tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus.

“Dear comrades, I am doing my duty to inform that after taking the appropriate tests, I have tested positive for Covid 19 [Chinese coronavirus],” Cabello wrote on Twitter. “I am in isolation currently and undergoing the indicated treatment, thank you for your well wishes, with high morale. We will overcome!”

Cabello had canceled the most recent episode of his political opinion television show, Con el Mazo Dando (“Hitting with the Mallet”), claiming to be suffering from allergies.

A day prior, Cabello posted a message saying that Con el Mazo Dando would not air on Thursday because “since yesterday I have been struggling with a strong allergy, doctors and my family have ordered me to rest, we will see each other next week.” In response to someone expressing concern, Cabello described his symptoms as having highly irritated eyes, which would make hosting a television show difficult. Eye irritation is not a common coronavirus symptom.

Cabello’s diagnosis represents the highest-ranking person in Venezuela’s socialist regime to claim to test positive. As one of his many jobs in the regime, Cabello is also the head of the “National Constituent Assembly,” a fictitious alternate legislature that Maduro created in 2017 to usurp the power of the country’s actual lawmaking body, the National Assembly, when the opposition won a majority in the 2015 elections. Cabello’s lawmaking body is tasked with rewriting the nation’s constitution to cement Maduro’s grip on power. Cabello is also in the senior leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Maduro’s party, in charge of party discipline.

Cabello is perhaps best known, however, as one of the Maduro regime’s most prolific drug traffickers, according to the U.S. government. Experts believe that Cabello is the head of the “Cartel of the Suns,” a cocaine-trafficking outfit operating out of the Venezuelan military, that uses sun medallions on their uniforms. The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Cabello in 2018.

“We are imposing costs on figures like Diosdado Cabello who exploit their official positions to engage in narcotics trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said at the time.

Cabello has denied the charges and sued the Wall Street Journal for reporting on them in 2018, but lost the lawsuit.

In his many capacities, Cabello interacts with Maduro on a regular basis, as well as other senior members of the administration. Many of these expressed their best wishes to Cabello online. The Con el Mazo Dando webpage posted an article claiming that a large number of Twitter users had “expressed solidarity” with Cabello but most of the posts were from his peers, including Maduro and his son, Nicolás Maduro Guerra.

“I send you all my solidarity and support brother, comrade, and friend [Diosdado Cabello],” the elder Maduro, Nicolás Maduro Moros, posted to Twitter. “We are with you! I know that with the treatments, the blessings of Christ, and the miraculous hand of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández you will triumph in this battle. We will always triumph!” Hernández is a Venezuelan doctor whose beatification Pope Francis recently approved.

Maduro later issued some remarks on Cabello, saying that he had told the dictator that he felt sick for days but Maduro had to pressure him into taking a coronavirus test.

“He is fine. Diosdado is in treatment now. He said he had allergies, that he had a headache, so I told him that he had to take the test. He took it and it came out positive,” Maduro said, according to the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Cabello’s diagnosis comes three months after Maduro claimed that socialist Venezuela had miraculously halted community transmission of the highly contagious disease. That month, April, Maduro also insisted that every person diagnosed with Chinese coronavirus in the country would be forced into hospitalization, regardless of the severity of their infection or hospital capacity. To that end, the Maduro regime has confiscated formerly private hotels in several parts of the country and forced those believed to be carrying the virus into house arrest there, where many have complained of a lack of proper access to food and hygiene.

At press time, there is no indication that Cabello has been hospitalized.

The Maduro regime — which the World Health Organization incorrectly identifies as the government of Venezuela — has documented 8,372 cases of Chinese coronavirus and 80 deaths. Given the decayed state of the nation’s socialist healthcare system and its close ties to the Communist Party of China, which caused the pandemic, many experts believe that Venezuela may have far more coronavirus cases than it has been able, or willing, to document.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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