Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Chavez dismisses Bush's upcoming trip

`DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE' The leftist Venezuelan leader, who has been denounced by the US, said he respected the right of other Latin American leaders to meet Bush

AFP , CARACAS

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday dismissed the upcoming Latin American tour of his nemesis US President George W. Bush as a "diplomatic offensive" that is doomed to fail.

"It is a diplomatic offensive ... but it is too late," Chavez said in a news conference. "I think the US president has nothing to look for in Latin America. It is an offensive destined for the depths of defeat."

The leftist leader, who has been accused by the US of being a destabilizing force in the region and of threatening democracies with his behavior, said he respected the right of other Latin American leaders to meet Bush.

"We, of course, would never invite him because we know what he is," Chavez said, adding that he hoped the 2008 US presidential election would bring a government he can talk with. Bush is barred from running by term limits.

"Hopefully, the next US government is one we can talk with, and I say this not only for Venezuela but also the world, because the current US government is a real threat," said Chavez, who has called Bush the devil.

Bush is scheduled to go to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico between March 8-14.

The White House has expressed that the trip will "underscore the commitment of the United States for the Western Hemisphere and will highlight our common agenda to advance freedom, prosperity and social justice."

US-Venezuelan relations have nose-dived since Chavez was first elected in 1998. The South American leader, who was reelected in December, has moved closer to other US foes including Iran and Cuba.

His domestic critics argue he has moved aggressively to consolidate power over the legislature, courts and other sectors of society, at times struggling with independent media.

On Saturday, Chavez lashed out at a Brazilian correspondent with O Globo television who gave a report Chavez saw as critical, saying to the journalist: "You are meddling with something that is sacred: our country's sovereignty."

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