Venezuela's Chavez calls Bush 'assassin’

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, extending his war of words with Washington, on Thursday called U.S. President George W. Bush "an assassin" and accused the United States of meddling in his country's affairs. "The people of the United States are governed by an assassin ... a crazy man!" said Chavez, a self-styled "revolutionary" and outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

"I think the people of the United States are more aware of this situation every day."

Relations between Chavez and Washington have become increasingly strained, though the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.

Chavez has repeatedly clashed with the U.S. government and accused Washington of seeking to oust him, a claim U.S. officials have denied.

The Bush administration, in turn, has expressed concerns over the health of Venezuela's democracy and criticized the South American nation for not doing enough to block shipments of illegal narcotics to the United States and Europe.

During a late-night speech to Venezuelan officials and Brazilian business leaders at Miraflores Presidential Palace on Thursday, Chavez praised Americans who stand up to their "imperialist" government.

"Welcome, those who oppose the war and aggression against Iraq, who oppose the aggression against Venezuela," he said.

Chavez, who has close ties with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, encouraged leftist governments in Latin American to resist American hegemony in the region.

"This is a time of resistance ... and you can be sure, that if we fail, our children and our grandchildren will be here resisting," he said to a rousing applause, reports the AP. I.L.

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