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Go to hell, Chavez tells Washington

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 12:16 IST
Reuters
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday called the United States secretary of state "my little girl" and told Washington to "go to hell" after it questioned his plan to seek special powers to legislate by decree.

Chavez, a Cuba ally re-elected by a landslide in December, this month launched a campaign to consolidate power by nationalising key industries, seeking expanded executive powers and pushing for unlimited presidential re-election.

A State Department spokesman on Friday described Chavez's proposal to allow presidents to rule by decree as "a bit odd" in a democracy.

"That is a sacrosanct legal authority of Venezuela. Go to hell, gringos! Go home! Go home!" Chavez said during his weekly Sunday broadcast.

"We're free here, and every day we'll be more free."

Chavez also took on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has described Chavez as a "negative force" in the region.

"Hi Condoleezza, how are you? You've forgotten about me, my little girl," said Chavez, who last year called President George W Bush "the devil" during a UN speech.

Venezuela's legislature this week is expected to give its final approval to the Enabling Law that would grant Chavez 18 months to decree legislation.

The former soldier has said he would use the expanded powers to end the autonomy of the nation's central bank, create a national police force and boost state control over the nation's oil industry, which provides around 11 per cent of US oil imports.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey on Friday said the legislation by decree proposal was "a sovereign right of Venezuela but certainly ... a bit odd in terms of a democratic system."

Chavez also plans to alter the nation's Constitution, rewritten in 1999 following a campaign Chavez himself led, to boost state control over the economy and remove a two-term limit for presidents.

He said he additionally plans to create new luxury taxes and raise Venezuela's rock-bottom gasoline prices — currently around 13 cents per gallon — and use the proceeds to finance community development groups.

Chavez in 2001 decreed a package of 40 laws that paved the way for a sweeping land reform measure and higher taxes for oil companies.

The move galvanised the country's fledgling opposition, which accused Chavez of authoritarianism and staged a botched coup six months later.

The government says previous Venezuelan administrations used the Enabling Law, though opposition leaders say they reserved the law for emergency measures rather than divisive reforms.

Chavez frequently describes the United States as a decadent empire and has promised to roll back Washington's influence in Latin America.

The United States has criticised his close relationship with US foes including Cuba, Iran and Syria, charging he has used the nation's oil wealth to meddle in the affairs of neighboring countries.

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