Venezuela's Chavez Blasts U.S. Over 'Terrorist' Plot
Wed September 24, 2003 04:49 PM ET
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday Venezuelan "terrorists" plotting to kill him were training in the United States, and he told the U.S. and Spanish governments to stop meddling in his country's affairs.
In a pugnacious speech to a meeting of women supporters in Caracas, the left-wing Venezuelan leader also criticized the United Nations as a "dialogue of the deaf" and said it was not worth speaking at the international body.
Chavez, who faces a possible referendum on his rule sought by political foes in Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, had canceled a planned visit to the U.N. and the U.S. this week. He had cited security concerns.
He said on Wednesday that, while he had no conclusive proof, his government had received information of a possible assassination plot against him by Venezuelan opponents based in the United States, which is a major buyer of Venezuelan oil.
"Over there, in U.S. territory, people are conspiring against Venezuela, terrorists are being trained," Chavez said.
He gave no more details but said those involved had taken part in a failed coup against him last year.
"If they (the U.S. authorities) are really fighting terrorism as they say, they should act against these terrorists who are threatening Venezuela," Chavez said.
He angrily accused Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the government of President Bush of interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs. He has attacked both the U.S. and Spanish leaders in the past.
"The Spanish empire was thrown out of here almost 200 years ago, Aznar," Chavez shouted, recalling how Venezuela had won independence from Spanish colonial rule.
"What happens in Venezuela has nothing to do with Mr Bush's government," he added.
In recent weeks, Chavez has furiously rejected statements from senior Bush administration officials supporting the idea of a referendum on his rule.
His attack against Aznar appeared to be motivated by comments by the Spanish prime minister published in a Colombian magazine this week. Aznar had urged Chavez not to follow the example of communist Cuba in his policies for Venezuela.
Political opponents accuse Chavez of ruling like a dictator and say his self-styled "revolution" is dragging oil-rich Venezuela toward economic ruin. He portrays his foes as rich, resentful "oligarchs" fighting to preserve their wealth and privileges.