- Dec 11, 2005
- Seren?sima Rep?blica de California
- 1997 BMW 528i
CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez on Saturday accused Barack Obama of meddling in a referendum that could allow him to run for re-election indefinitely and ordered a crackdown on disorderly student protests against the upcoming vote.
In a speech to supporters, Chavez accused the U.S. president-elect of supporting the Venezuelan opposition and wanting to see him removed from office.
"He's said I'm an obstacle for progress in Latin America," Chavez said. "Therefore it must be removed, this obstacle, right?"
It was unclear what comments Chavez could be referring to. On Thursday, the top American official in Venezuela, Charge d'Affaires John Caulfield, said the U.S. would seek increased cooperation and "renewed dialogue" with the Chavez government under an Obama administration. Obama takes office Tuesday.
U.S.-Venezuela relations reached a low point in September when Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador and recalled his envoy from Washington. But the socialist leader previously expressed hope for improved relations under a new administration, refraining from the confrontational language and insults he constantly hurled against President George W. Bush.
But Chavez said Saturday that Obama is following orders from the Pentagon. "If he doesn't obey the orders of the empire, they'll kill him," he said, without offering proof.
Meanwhile, Chavez said he became incensed after watching footage of students blocking a Caracas highway, burning trees and taunting police on Friday.
"Detain them I am giving the order only once," he told Venezuela's security forces. "Throw lots of (tear) gas at them, and take them prisoner for me. If you don't, I'm going to go after the authorities responsible."
Venezuelans will decide Feb. 15 whether to amend the constitution to end term limits for Chavez and all other elected officials.
Voters rejected a similar measure as part of a proposed package of constitutional reforms in December 2007.
University student leaders were widely credited with aiding its defeat by drawing tens of thousands to protest marches. National guard troops used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons to quell the protesters, some of whom threw rocks and bottles at police.
Chavez said any police chief who let officers stand around like "idiots" while students spit in their faces should be replaced. He also called on federal prosecutors to go after lawbreaking protesters.
The Venezuelan leader, who has repeatedly accused opposition leaders of planning violence if the re-election referendum passes, urged his rivals to go "the legal way."
Opposition leader Manuel Rosales promised a peaceful campaign against lifting term limits.
"We don't participate in riots or violence," he told Globovision TV on Saturday. "We are not against constitutional and legal norms."
Chavez said he had information that opposition leaders he accuses of meeting with advisers from the U.S. government in Puerto Rico went to New York on Friday for similar reasons.
"Can't you see that Obama has gotten involved in the (referendum) campaign?" he said.
"We are facing very powerful enemies. Barack Obama seems to be making new trouble."
That was quick.