Chavez calls George W. Bush 'political cadaver'

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush a "political cadaver" and blasted U.S. policies as "imperialist" as he led 20,000 supporters in an anti-American rally.

On a dueling counter-tour that brought Chavez to Argentina, the Venezuelan socialist heaped one invective after another on Bush in a biting, two-hour speech late Friday before 20,000 supporters at a soccer stadium, talking even as Bush's plane landed in nearby Uruguay.

"The U.S. president today is a true political cadaver and now he does not even smell of sulfur anymore," Chavez said, alluding to Bush's waning years in office. "What the little gentleman from the North now exudes is the smell of political death and in a very short time he will be converted into cosmic dust and disappear from the stage."

Chavez added that he did not come to "sabotage" Bush's visit, saying the timing was a coincidence.

"This act was organized to say 'No!' to the presence of the imperial boss in these heroic lands of our America, in the heroic lands of South America," the Venezuelan president said to raucous cheers. "Gringo go home!"

A woman at the rally, Carmen Inturias, breast-fed her baby as she explained why she attended the rally in repudiation of Bush.

"Bush is always against the poor," she said. "Chavez is always for the poor."

Chavez was the only speaker at the event, which lasted nearly two hours.

Across the river border in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, a rowdy group of anti-American demonstrators scuffled with bystanders and shattered windows at an American fast-food restaurant. The incident underscored tensions there as Bush arrived Friday night from neighboring Brazil and was driven in a bulletproof limousine to his hotel.

"Exterminate the Empire!" a masked woman spray-painted on a business facade in Montevideo. But there were no reports of serious injuries as the visit began with Uruguay's first leftist president, Tabare Vazquez, who seeks greater trade with Washington.

As Bush finishes talks Saturday and heads to see a conservative ally, Alvaro Uribe, in conflict-wracked Colombia, the Venezuelan president plans also to be in the Andean region with his protege Bolivian leftist President Evo Morales, and tour flood-stricken lowlands there.

And roughly when Bush heads to Guatemala in Central America, Chavez will be touring the nearby Caribbean to meet leaders in Haiti on Monday. Both destinations are small, poor countries historically beleaguered by coups and turmoil, and Chavez has pledged Haiti considerable development aid.

Chavez said Bush's expressions that the United States "cares" about poverty should not be heeded by the region, telling sympathizers they should embrace his vision of Latin American unity independent of Washington's free-market ways.

"The little gentleman from the north has discovered poverty in Latin America," Chavez said. "I believe one has to give the president of the United States a medal for hypocrisy, because he has said he is concerned about poverty in Latin America."

He accused U.S. free-market policies of impoverishing the region, saying the "empire is the real one to blame, for its economic models and the coup d'etats" of past dictatorships that were tolerated by former U.S. administrations.

Chavez told the rally that Bush's five-nation swing would fail to improve America's image and dismissed his pledges of U.S. aid as a cynical attempt to "confuse" Latin Americans.

Chilean Claudio Hernandez said he came to the stadium to support Chavez and oppose U.S. "imperialism," adding, "We are against Bush because of his oil wars and his other policies."

Anti-American and anti-Bush sentiment - particularly over the war in Iraq and U.S. trade negotiations - run high in the countries on Bush's tour and elsewhere in the region.

In Asuncion, Paraguay, a few dozen Chavez supporters turned up outside the U.S. Embassy in that capital to protest against Bush on Friday - even though Bush was not stopping there, the AP reports.

In Argentina, many still blame Washington for tolerating the country's brutal military regimes of 1976-1983, when thousands of dissidents were tortured and killed. The organizers of Chavez's rally included Mercedes Merono of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group still searching for sons and daughters who vanished after being arrested under military rule.

"This counter-rally is extremely important," she said. "Bush seeks to take advantage of Latin America while Chavez supports the region's independence."

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