Caracas, Venezuela, May 23, 2006-Reacting to comments made by U.S. President George Bush on Monday that expressed concern about, "the erosion of democracy" in Venezuela and Bolivia, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez accused Bush on Tuesday of "demolishing" his own country's democracy.
"Democracy and the fundamental principles of that country, which were held up by Abraham Lincoln among others, are being demolished," said Chávez in reference to a domestic spying program which has been largely criticized in the U.S. for violating civil liberties, according to the AP.
"We'll have to tell the U.S. president that we are very worried because his imperialist, war-mongering government is dangerously eroding the possibility of peace and life on this planet," Chávez added. For Chávez, in the same way that the twentieth century was called the North American century, the twenty-first century will go down as the "the century which put an end to the North American empire."
Bush's remarks were also criticized by other high-level politicians in both Venezuela and the U.S. Venezuelan National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday, "Today Bush, cynically, tries to make a judgment on Venezuela democracy. We ask [U.S.] opinion, 60 percent of whom reject his government, where is democracy being eroded: in a government which invades, bombs, and assassinates, or here [in Venezuela]?"
In the U.S., Democratic Congressman Donald M. Payne said on Tuesday that the Bush administration had adopted "a totally flawed position" regarding Chávez. Payne, who serves on the House of Representatives International Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said the two countries "definitely need to have a dialogue."
This latest exchange between the two countries' leaders comes at a time when U.S.-Venezuela relations have been steadily deteriorating. Last week, the Bush administration declared a ban on arms sales from the U.S. to Venezuela, because Venezuela was allegedly "not cooperating fully" in the "war on terrorism." Venezuela is the only country on the U.S. list of countries that is not cooperating fully with terrorism that is not also on their list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The arms sale ban affects U.S. sales and licensing for the export of defense articles and services to Venezuela, including the transfer of defense items, said Darla Jordan, a State Department spokeswoman, according to the AP. In 2005, Venezuela spent $34 million on military equipment in the U.S., mostly for spare parts for C-130 cargo planes.