View Full Version : Bush Sharpens Criticism Of Venezuela's Chavez

03-13-2008, 08:28 AM
Bush sharpens criticism of Venezuela's Chavez


04 Mar 2008

WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush sharpened his criticism of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday, accusing him of a "disturbing pattern" of provocations and of squandering his country's oil wealth to foment anti-Americanism.

Bush spoke just days after Latin American leaders mediated an end to a week-long crisis sparked by a raid by Colombia troops into Ecuador that killed a top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC.

Venezuela and Ecuador had responded by sending troops to their borders with Colombia, their U.S.-backed neighbor.

"This is the latest step in a disturbing pattern of provocative behavior by the regime in Caracas," Bush said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

As the crisis engulfed the Andean region last week, Bush had been quick to single out Chavez, a strident leftist critic of the U.S. administration, as a culprit and warned against acts of aggression.

Trying to draw links between Chavez's government and the FARC, which the United States lists as a terrorist group, Bush said on Wednesday, "It has also called for FARC terrorists to be recognized as a legitimate army, and senior regime officials have met with FARC officials in Venezuela."

The Andean crisis reflected a sharp political divide in South America, where Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who has strong U.S. backing, is opposed by leftists led by Chavez who fiercely reject what they brand U.S. "imperialism."

Chavez, who has called for a socialist revolution in Latin America to counter U.S. influence, has regularly hurled insults at Bush in recent years and once called him the "devil" in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

"As it tries to expand its influence in Latin America, the regime claims to promote social justice," Bush said. "In truth its agenda amounts to little more than empty promises and a thirst for power."

"It has has squandered its oil wealth in an effort to promote a hostile, anti-American vision," he added. "It has left its own citizens to face food shortages while it threatens its neighbors." (Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by David Wiessler)