On the eve of his first official overseas trip since being diagnosed with cancer, Hugo Chávez has launched a blistering attack on Barack Obama, describing the US president as a "clown" and an "embarrassment".
"Focus on governing your country, which you've turned into a disaster," the Venezuelan president told state TV on Monday. Chávez touched down in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on Tuesday for a summit of Mercosur, South America's leading trade bloc.
Chávez's comments followed a rare and strongly worded interview with Obama published by the Caracas-based El Universal newspaper. The American president criticised Venezuela's business and political links withIran and Cuba, and raised concerns at what he called threats to the country's democracy.
"We are concerned about the government's actions, which have restricted the universal rights of the Venezuelan people, threatened basic democratic values and failed to contribute to the security in the region," Obama said in the written interview.
"It seems to me that the ties between Venezuela's government and Iran and Cuba have not served the interests of Venezuela and its people."
Referring to Iran, Obama added: "Sooner or later, Venezuela's people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is isolated from most of the world."
Chávez, who travelled to Uruguay to push for full Venezuelan membership of the Mercosur, issued a rebuttal, claiming the interview was motivated by next year's US presidential elections. "Mr Obama decided to attack us," he said. "Now you want to win votes by attacking Venezuela. Don't be irresponsible. You are a clown, a clown. Leave us in peace … Go after your votes by fulfilling that which you promised your people."
Chávez, who also faces a tricky 2012 re-election battle, was known for his vitriolic attacks on George Bush, who he famously called the "devil" during a 2006 speech at the UN. His swipe at Obama suggested to some analysts that Chávez believed he could score electoral points at home by berating the US commander-in-chief.
Javier Corrales, an expert on Venezuela from Amherst College in Massachusetts, said that "Chávez's response was predictable; Obama's motives [for giving the interview were], less so.
"Chávez seizes every opportunity he can find to have a fight with theUnited States, and his response to this interview follows that line faithfully," Corrales said. "[But] Obama's motives for doing the interview were less predictable. The United States has been trying not to say too much about Venezuela in public since the last few years of the Bush administration. It's a policy of avoiding verbal confrontations at all costs," he said.
Corrales argued Obama's departure from that policy was likely a response to "increasing pressure by conservatives on the United States to sanction Venezuela, especially because of its ties with Iran. Under Bush, the Conservatives were tolerant with the administration's policy. Under Obama, this tolerance is waning," he added.
Fecha de la Noticia:
20 de Diciembre de 2011