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He was responding to criticism of Venezuela contained in the recently released Bush administration document, Strategy for National Security, 2006.

The document alleges that, “In Venezuela, a demagogue inundated with petrol money is undermining democracy and trying to destabilize the region.” Chavez replied by blasting president George W. Bush over the war on Iraq, and contrasting popular support for himself with the international opposition to the US president.

Referring to the passage of three years since the invasion of Iraq, President Chavez reminded Bush that “that the entire world opposes his imperialist war, his demented attitude of domination; that 70 per cent of his own people are against him…,” according to a report on the Aló Presidente program in the March 20 Diario Vea newspaper. “God save the world from this threat…. You are a coward, murderer, and responsible for genocide. Why don’t you go to Iraq and command your armed forces there?” Chavez demanded of the US president. He warned Bush that if some day it occurred to him to invade Venezuela, then the whole country would immediately rush to its defense.

In a comment on the failure of the right-wing parties in Venezuela to endorse a serious candidate to challenge him in the presidential elections due in December this year, Chavez said, “This only confirms that Bush is the [real] chief of the Venezuelan opposition. I challenge his minions here in Venezuela, such as [media owners] Granier, Ravell, Otero, and Mata Osorio, to publicize the [recent opinion] polls…. They won’t do it because no candidate of the opposition can do any better.”

Chavez was referring to the poll, quoted in the March 18 Diario Vea, conducted by the research company Seijas, which noted “increasing support for President Chavez, with a popular backing of 82 per cent,” in regard to the next presidential election due on December 3. “According to this poll, the head of state would win with ease against any possible opposition candidate,” the paper noted. Seijas is not a firm linked to the Venezuelan government, having worked for the traditional right-wing party Accion Democratica for many years.

The Venezuelan president’s comments followed a strong rejection of the Bush attacks on Chavez by Venezuelan vice-president Jose Vincent Rangel. According to the March 18 Diario Vea, Rangel pointed out that “the biggest force for destabilization in the region is the politics of Bush.” He called attention to the fact that for the first time Bush’s aggression was direct and personal against Chavez, leaving aside officials [such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] who had previously carried out this type of attack. “It is a sign of the desperation, frustration and failure that has entered into the campaign led Washington against Venezuela,” Rangel concluded.