Chavez laments Venezuelan boxer's demise

Chavez laments Venezuelan boxer's demise

Published Apr. 25, 2010 8:11 p.m. ET

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez lamented the tragic death of Edwin Valero on Sunday, saying the troubled fighter who killed himself after slaying his wife had failed to defeat his biggest adversary - drug and alcohol addiction.

Valero, famed for an impressive record of 27 straight knockouts and a huge tattoo of Chavez on his chest, hanged himself in his jail cell last week. The boxer, who was nicknamed ``El Inca'' in reference to an Indian warrior, committed suicide a day after he was arrested in the stabbing death of his 24-year-old wife.

``In his brilliant boxing career, giving it all for Venezuela, El Inca never knew defeat,'' Chavez, one of Valero's most vociferous aficionados, wrote in his weekly newspaper column. ``But he couldn't come to dominate himself.''

Hundreds of fans attended the fighter's funeral in his hometown of El Vigia last week to bid him a final farewell.


The killing of Valero's wife, Jennifer Carolina Viera, coupled with the boxer's suicide, shocked many Venezuelans.

Relatives and friends of the former WBA super featherweight and WBC lightweight champion said he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and Venezuelan news reports since 2008 had repeatedly linked him to domestic violence incidents.

Chavez strongly criticized media coverage of Valero's problems and his eventual demise, suggesting that anti-government media executives were eagerly chronicled the boxer's ordeals.

``It's necessary to underline the media frenzy that encircled 'El Inca' during recent months. They never forgave his identification with the Bolivarian Revolution,'' wrote Chavez, referring to his political movement named after 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar.

``Someone who had turned into a symbol had to be destroyed - at any cost. Now, like vultures, they feed off the cadavers of Jennifer and Edwin.''

Valero was detained March 25 on suspicion of assaulting his wife but Viera told a police officer her injuries were caused by a fall. After that incident, the boxer was held for nine days in a psychiatric hospital, where he underwent police-supervised rehabilitation.

People close to the fighter posted bail on April 7 and he was allowed to go free.

Venezuelan government had arranged for Valero to attend a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation program in Cuba. Valero had missed a flight to Cuba and was scheduled to fly there before he killed his wife and committed suicide.