Photograph of Hugo Chávez supposedly undergoing surgery turns out to be Mexican man with growth disorder


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The Independent Online

A picture of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez supposedly undergoing surgery published in Spanish newspaper El Páis has been identified as a Mexican patient suffering from a growth disorder.

Doctor Juan Mandujano Guajardo said a video of the original operation, in which he had been one of the anaesthesiologists treating the man, had had been recorded for educational purposes in Mexico City in 2008. He said the video was uploaded to a medical association website, before finding its way onto Youtube later the same year.

The photograph in El País earlier this month purported to show Mr Chavez – who had not been seen in public for weeks – undergoing surgery in Cuba as part of treatment for cancer. But it now appears the photograph was taken from the video online, then sold to El País for €15,000 (£12,900).

El País described the publication of the photo as “one of the greatest errors in the newspaper’s history”.

With scarce information available about the state of President Chávez’s health, the newspaper later admitted it had carried out insufficient background checks when it bought the photo from the news agency, Gtres Online. Gtres reportedly claimed the image had been indirectly provided by relatives of a nurse working in a Cuban hospital. They refused to reveal her identity alleging that her life would be at risk, according to El País.