He frequently refers to President Bush as “Mr. Danger,” but Thursday, Venezuela’s grande enchilada, Hugo Chavez, escalated the name-calling. Accusing the United States and Britain of planning to invade Iran, the South American country’s closest Middle East ally, Chavez said Bush “thinks of himself as the owner of the world,” adding, “The guy is a madman.”
The leftist leader, up for re-election in December, also repeated claims that Washington intends to undermine him, too, though he offered no proof of the alleged scheming during a speech to supporters. The two antagonists are feuding, with each country expelling a diplomat in recent days.
(Photo by Miraflores Press, AP)
Venezuela’s Chavez calls Bush ‘madman,’ says U.S. planning to invade Iran
By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER
Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush a “madman” on Thursday and accused the United States and Britain of planning to invade Iran, Venezuela’s closest ally in the Middle East.
“He thinks of himself as the owner of the world and now they are making plans to invade Iran, and plans against Venezuela too,” Chavez said in a televised speech. “The guy is a madman.”
Chavez, a sharp critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, did not provide any evidence of his allegations. Chavez frequently refers to Bush as “Mr. Danger” and has accused the U.S. president of being “the greatest terrorist in the world.”
Since U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler last week, Chavez has also begun referring to Bush as “Hitler.”
“The Americans are going to have to tie (Bush) down one of these days, because if they don’t he’s capable of destroying half the world,” Chavez said Thursday.
The Venezuelan leader also said British Prime Minister Tony Blair has teamed up with Bush in a confrontation with Venezuela.
“He’s the madman’s unconditional and subordinate ally, and now he also came out shooting against us,” said Chavez.
The British prime minister, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, urged Venezuela to abide by the rules of the international community and said he’d like to see true democracy in communist-led Cuba, Venezuela’s closest ally in Latin America.
Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said Thursday that Venezuela wants to maintain healthy diplomatic relations with all nations but cannot accept meddling in its affairs.
“Venezuela is a peaceful, democratic country that fights for peace in the world, for social justice and good relations between all the nations of the Earth,” Rangel said in a statement. “But, at the same time, our country has a high sense of dignity, sovereignty and respect as the highest norm of the international right to nonintervention.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Rondon sent a formal complaint about Blair’s statements to the British Embassy in Caracas, saying Blair’s comments showed his disregard for “the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and self-determination.”
Venezuela, along with Cuba and Syria, have voted against referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for resuming uranium enrichment and no longer allowing snap inspections of its nuclear facilities.
The United States fears Tehran is developing a nuclear bomb.
Chavez has repeatedly accused officials in Washington of planning to invade Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter. U.S. officials have denied any such plan exists.
During Thursday’s speech to supporters, Chavez also criticized Britain’s long-standing claim to the Falkland Islands _ known as the Malvinas Islands by most Latin Americans _ and its recapture of the islands after Argentina invaded them in 1982.
“These islands are Argentine, give the Malvinas back Mr. Blair,” said Chavez, a close ally of Argentina President Nestor Kirchner. “The British army went there to trample upon Argentine soldiers, supported by the government of the United States.”
Venezuela is in the midst of a diplomatic row with the United States that has seen diplomatic officials expelled from both countries.
U.S. officials expelled the chief of staff at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington from the United States last week in what the U.S. State Department said was retaliation for Venezuela’s expulsion of a U.S. naval officer accused of spying.
Chavez predicted on Wednesday the United States would step up attempts to undermine his government as he runs for re-election this year.
“The forces of imperialism aren’t going to rest” in the months leading up to the Dec. 3 election, Chavez said.