President Barack Obama’s sharp criticisms of Venezuela’s human rights record and its ties to Iran are heightening tensions with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who on Monday responded by calling Obama a “clown” and telling him to mind his own business.
Obama appeared to stiffen his stance toward Chavez in his remarks, which were published Monday by the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. Some of Obama’s Republican opponents have also been strongly critical of Chavez, and analysts expect the Venezuelan president could become a popular target of criticism as American politicians feud over foreign policy ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election.
While Washington has long criticized Chavez, Obama’s remarks were some of his hardest to date. He pointedly raised concerns about what he described as threats to democracy in Venezuela.
“We’re concerned about the government’s actions, which have restricted the universal rights of the Venezuelan people, threatened basic democratic values and failed to contribute to the security in the region,” Obama said in written responses to questions from the newspaper.
Of course, it’s important to consider the source here. El Luniversal is a virulently oppositionist newspaper. It’s backing a “unity table” of failed right-wing candidates. So of course it’s going to go fishing for nasty words from Obama to Chavecito. The embarrassing thing is, His Barackness obliged. And the ‘Cito gave him a prompt pantsing for it:
Chavez wasted little no time in responding. He said on state television, “Mr. Obama came out, attacking us, but that’s not out of the ordinary for us.”
The Venezuelan leader added, “Obama, take care of your own business, focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster. Leave us alone.”
Touché! The US still has a major, Repug-corporatist-made recession to dig out of, and His Barackness has been rather slow off the mark to address that. Must be all that hopey-changey bipartisan bending-over and ankle-grabbing.
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, things are going nowhere but up, in spite of the supposed human-rights violations of Chavecito — which, you’ll note, are left deliberately vague by El Luni AND His Barackness. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, too.
And Chavecito has pegged a couple of things very accurately here: All this tough talk comes in a pre-election year. And oh yeah, another thing, too:
Chavez suggested Obama’s stances toward Venezuela are a campaign ploy.
“He’s looking for votes,” Chavez said. Addressing Obama directly, he added: “If I could be a candidate there in the United States, I’d sweep you away.”
Yep: It’s that hopey-changey thing. Chavecito has it for real; he doesn’t need to use it for a campaign slogan.
I bet he’d have no qualms about sending the Bush Crime Mafia to The Hague, either. Unlike His Barackness, the ‘Cito has already lived through one coup attempt, and he’s not afraid of another; he knows from experience that the people have his back. Which is why he can also laugh at the pro-putsch rhetoric coming out of Washington, and why his “I could sweep you” is not exactly an idle boast. Chavecito has already made a thorough fool of Dubya, and he won’t hesitate to do the same to any other US president who pushes his luck.
There are plenty of people in the US who admire that kind of cojones, and who are sick to death of the lack of it in their politicians. They would vote for him tomorrow if he ran there — and if their media could only give an accurate account of his record. Too bad that like the so-called journalists of El Luni, most of the US media are also hopeless hacks.
Who’s the buffoon now, eh?