Hugo Chávez has condemned the “horrible repression” of anti-Wall Street protesters and described a US Republican presidential candidate as “crazy” for his criticism of Cuba and Venezuela.
Although still convalescing from cancer surgery in June followed by four rounds of chemotherapy, the 57-year-old Venezuelan president is quickly returning to his tough rhetoric and strong views.
Not surprisingly, Chávez expressed solidarity with American activists who have been staging rallies and marches against what they view as corporate greed on Wall Street.
The US protests, which began last month in New York City and have spread to Tampa, Seattle, Chicago and other cities, have mostly been peaceful but sometimes resulted in confrontations. Dozens were arrested and police used pepper spray in New York earlier this week.
“This movement of popular outrage is expanding to 10 cities and the repression is horrible, I don’t know how many are in prison now,” Chávez said in comments at a political meeting in his presidential palace shown on state TV.
“Poverty’s growing, the misery is getting worse,” he said, referring to the causes of the US protests. “But that empire is still there, still a threat … [President Barack] Obama is on his way down, for lots of reasons. He was a big fraud.”
Chávez, who runs for re-election in a year’s time and traditionally ramps up his anti-capitalist rhetoric to try and rally supporters before a vote, also let rip at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who referred to the “malign socialism” of Cuba and Venezuela on Friday.
“He’s been attacking Venezuela and Cuba, and talking about the malign government of Hugo Chávez. And he has the arrogance to say that God created the United States so the United States can rule the world,” Chávez said.
“And that crazy man might be the president of the United States, in elections that are just after ours.”
Venezuela’s presidential vote is in October 2012, with the US vote in November.
Chávez said again he was sure he would be given a clean bill of health in time to run a vigorous campaign for re-election.
He would return to Cuba, where he was operated on in June to remove a malignant tumour, in a few days for final checks, he said. “We’re going to do all the examinations to confirm what we think up to now, that there are no malignant cells left in my body,” he told the meeting.