Bush: Chavez doing 'disservice' to Venezuela


Wednesday, June 7, 2006; Posted: 12:28 p.m. EDT (16:28 GMT)

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) -- President Bush on Wednesday suggested that Venezuela's fiery anti-American President Hugo Chavez has done "a great disservice to the traditions and people" of his South American nation.

Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States, but relations between Chavez and the Bush administration have deteriorated sharply.

Chavez, an ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, has called Bush an alcoholic, a terrorist and an imperialist.

He has denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq and repeatedly accused the United States of trying to overthrow him to seize his country's vast oil reserves.

U.S. officials have denied that allegation and accused the confrontational leftist of being a threat to Latin American democracies.

Recently, the Bush administration has expressed concern about what it says is Chavez' "ideological affinity" with two leftist guerrilla groups operating in neighboring Colombia and Venezuela's multibillion dollar arms acquisition program.

On a visit to the Juan Diego Center in Omaha, Bush met Lourdes Secola, who told him that she came to the United States 25 years ago Wednesday from Venezuela to get an education and work in dentistry.

"I'm a little worried about your country," Bush said after listening to her story. "I'm worried about it, a little worried about it. I think it'll be OK."

But Bush added: "It's going to take awhile. Sometimes leaders show up who do a great disservice to the traditions and people of a country."