For Chavez impersonator, cancer no laughing matter

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Associated Press

Posted on January 25, 2013 at 5:33 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 25 at 5:36 PM

MIAMI (AP) — Gustavo Rios mimics Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with comical, exaggerated precision. His voice billows in a triumphant tone and his hands prance in the air.

It's a mockery that came with a price in Venezuela, where the boisterous, domineering president has cultivated his image as a widely supported savior: Rios was taunted, threatened, robbed, and had his car set ablaze.

He fled Venezuela and now his act is featured in a Spanish-language show broadcast on U.S. airwaves as the real Chavez lies in a Cuban hospital, recovering or suffering — no one seems to know exactly — from complications following cancer surgery.

Rios dresses as the president and pokes fun. What he doesn't do: mention the word "cancer." Rios knows what the disease is like. His own father has it.

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