GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Software guru John McAfee, fighting deportation to Belize, was rushed to a hospital in Guatemala on Thursday after his lawyer said he had two mild heart attacks earlier in the day, and doctors said he was suffering from anxiety and hypertension.
Reporters saw McAfee carried out on a stretcher from an immigration service cottage where he was detained after crossing illegally into Guatemala from neighboring Belize, where police want to question him in connection with his neighbor’s murder.
The 67-year-old U.S. software pioneer’s hospitalization came after Guatemala denied a request for asylum.
McAfee was posting on his blog www.whoismcafee.com in the morning, the time his lawyer said he suffered the heart attacks.
“I don’t think a heart attack prevents one from using one’s blog,” said the lawyer, Telesforo Guerra.
On Thursday afternoon he was carried out, wrapped in a blanket with his eyes shut and taken to a police hospital.
Guerra’s assistant, Karla Paz, said she found McAfee lying on the ground and unable to move his body or speak.
Oscar Enrique Gonzalez, head of medical services at the hospital, said McAfee showed “a syndrome of anxiety and hypertension”. He said doctors were still studying his heart.
McAfee was detained by Guatemalan police on Wednesday for illegally sneaking across the border with his 20-year-old girlfriend to escape authorities in Belize. He has said he fears authorities in Belize will kill him if he returns.
Guatemala’s foreign minister, Harold Caballeros, said McAfee’s request for asylum was rejected.
Constitutional lawyer Gabriel Orellana, a former foreign minister, said the government should have given more weight to the asylum request rather than simply judge him over his illegal entry into Guatemala.
“We should take into account the fact that McAfee has not been accused of any crime in Belize,” he said.
Police in Belize want to quiz McAfee as “a person of interest” in the killing of fellow American, Gregory Faull, with whom he had quarreled. But they say he is not a prime suspect in the probe. McAfee says he has been persecuted by Belize’s ruling party because he refused to pay around $2 million he says it is trying to hustle out of him, he said.
Belize’s prime minister denies this and has described McAfee, who made millions from the Internet anti-virus software that bears his name, as “bonkers.” McAfee later lost much of his fortune and turned to a life of semi-reclusion by the Belizean beach.
After his arrest, McAfee spent the night in a cottage belonging to the immigration department. He passed much of the night reading his blog and posting his thoughts on a laptop he said was lent to him by the warden.
One person asked him if he felt like committing suicide.
“I enjoy living, and suicide is absurdly redundant,” he wrote. “The world, from the very beginning, hurls viruses, accidents, hungry animals, defective DNA - and uncountable more - in an attempt to kill us. It always succeeds. Suicide is simply aiding and abetting.”
McAfee’s earlier posts spoke of his relief at arriving in Guatemala, thinking he had found a way out of his troubles.
One of his readers posted a message offering him just that.
“John. I have a special ops team near the La Aurora International Airport. I can get you out of jail and provide safe passage back to the States for a fee. Please let me know if this interests you.”
Government spokesman Francisco Cuevas said on Wednesday the eccentric tech entrepreneur, who loves guns and young women and has tribal tattoos covering his shoulders, would be expelled to Belize within hours. However, an immigration department official later said immediate deportation had been ruled out.
The U.S. State Department said it was aware of McAfee’s arrest and its embassy was providing “appropriate consular services,” but said it could not comment further.
On the large Belizean island of Ambergris Caye, where McAfee has lived for about four years, residents and neighbors say he is eccentric and at times unstable. He was seen to travel with armed bodyguards, sporting a pistol tucked into his belt.
The predicament of the former Lockheed systems consultant is a far cry from his heyday in the late 1980s, when he started McAfee Associates. McAfee has no relationship now with the company, which was sold to Intel Corp.
McAfee was previously charged in Belize with possession of illegal firearms, and police had raided his property on suspicions that he was running a lab to produce illegal synthetic narcotics. He says he has not taken drugs since 1983.
“(Before then) I took drugs constantly, 24 hours of the day. I took them for years and years. I was the worst drug abuser on the planet,” he told Reuters before his arrest. “Then I finally went to Alcoholics Anonymous, and that was the end of it.”
With reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; Writing by Simon Gardner and Dave Graham; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara