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Hugo Chavez

Two Washington insiders who have leveled devastating criticism against President Bush and his policies at times today galloped to his defense when the nation’s chief executive came under criticism from the Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez.

“You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president,” U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., told a news conference after Chavez’ remarks about Bush were delivered.

“If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not,” he said.

Joining in was House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called Chavez an “everyday thug.”

“Huge Chavez abused the privilege that he had, speaking at the United Nations,” Pelosi said in a Reuters report. “He demeaned himself and he demeaned Venezuela.”

Chavez, in New York to address the United Nations, has been on a rant during most of his visit. Before the General Assemble, he said, “Yesterday, the devil came right here … and it smells of sulfur still,” referring to Bush’s visit the day before.

He also has called Bush a “donkey.”

While both Rangel and Pelosi have been severe critics of Bush and his policies, on this issue, they stood with him.

“I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, do not come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State,” Rangel said.

“Are there any questions?” Rangel asked the news conference where he delivered his opinion. After a pause, with no response, he said, “I’ve said it all.”

Pelosi said it appears that Chavez believes himself a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but he isn’t.

Bolivar was a 19th-century figure who led several South American nations in their battle for independence from Spain.

The White House hasn’t directly responded to Chavez’ criticisms.

“I am not going to dignify a comment by the Venezuelan president to the president of the United States. I think it is not becoming for a head of state,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier.

Chavez also has said in an AFP report that Bush is an alcoholic and said he is sick, but also told WCBS about a program to provide low-income New Yorkers with heating oil this winter.

Chavez periodically makes threats of cutting the U.S. off from his nation’s oil production, a business through which he gets about $1 million a day.

However, experts estimate that if that happens, that move would mean losing 70 percent of Venezuela’s export market.


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