UNITED NATIONS – Bringing his verbal war against the White House to the United Nations, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday branded President Bush “the devil” and the United States an “imperialist empire” on the verge of collapse.
“The devil came here Wednesday … talking as if he owns the world,” the flamboyant leftist leader said from the floor of the General Assembly, making the sign of the cross. “It still smells of sulfur.”
Bush came to “preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillaging,” Chavez continued as he waved a copy of leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky’s book “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance.”
“But Goliath will fall,” Chavez vowed at a subsequent news conference.
The U.S. delegate’s seat was empty as Chavez spoke. Asked later about the swipes at Bush, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said: “We’re not going to address that sort of comic-strip approach to international affairs.”
White House officials are increasingly concerned about Chavez, who is using his nation’s vast oil wealth to spread his influence through dozens of countries, including the United States, where he is selling subsidized heating fuel to low-income residents in areas including Harlem and the Bronx – and is befriending U.S. nemeses including Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Chavez said that, instead of thwarting other countries’ aspirations to develop nuclear power, the United States should stop building its own atomic weapons.
Chavez also blasted U.S. efforts to stop Venezuela from gaining a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council as “immoral.” He said Iran, Syria, China, Russia, the Arab League and much of the Caribbean and Latin America will vote to give Venezuela the seat. The United States has been lobbying furiously to have its ally Guatemala clinch the seat in secret General Assembly balloting Oct. 15.
Many leaders appear set to back Venezuela either because of Chavez’s generous oil sales to their countries or as a protest against what they see as U.S. global meddling. Some political analysts said, however, that Chavez’s inflammatory comments may backfire and dissuade some moderates from supporting his bid.
Venezuela would not have veto power as a rotating member of the Security Council, but it would seek to thwart U.S. dominance on such issues as Iran’s nuclear program.