The presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua, both fierce critics of US policy, on Friday accused US President Barack Obama of failing to deliver on his promise to make a new start in ties with Latin America.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, both staunch allies of Cuba’s communist leadership, made the criticism while attending a summit in Saint Kitts and Nevis of the Venezuelan-backed energy alliance PetroCaribe.
Chavez, who told Obama at a Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April “I want to be your friend,” said the new US president was not making good on his public commitment to change the way Washington deals with Latin America.
“Obama should carry out what he said, but it’s not happening,” Chavez told reporters after the summit concluded.
Chavez, whose oil-exporting country remains a leading energy supplier to the US, was a virulent critic of what he called the “imperialist” policies of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.
“It’s the same old empire. Let’s hope that Obama has the courage, the capacity and the support to dismantle that empire,” Chavez said.
He also rejected US allegations that his government was limiting freedom of expression by pursuing media critics, calling this view “a great cynicism.”
Earlier, Ortega accused Obama’s administration of being “stuck in the past” in its policies toward his country and Cuba.
Ortega said Obama, despite displaying good intentions, appeared to be repeating hostile policies established by his predecessors.
“We’ve all recognized in President Obama a man of good intentions, but he’s caught in a system which by its own nature is expansionist, interventionist,” Ortega said.
He criticized the US for canceling more than US$60 million in assistance to Nicaragua this week.
The Millennium Challenge, a US taxpayer-funded operation set up by Bush to fight poverty in developing nations, said it took the decision because of problems in local elections last year in Nicaragua.
“President Obama is repeating Reagan’s policy by cutting aid to Nicaragua,” Ortega said.
Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla and Cold War-era foe of the US, also criticized the White House for maintaining a 47-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba, although it has eased the sanctions.
Obama has offered a “new beginning” in relations with Cuba, but has called on its leaders to reciprocate by freeing detained dissidents and opening up political freedoms.