Chavez Says U.S. Denying Visas to His Security, Medical Teams

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused U.S. authorities of denying visas to members of his security detail and his personal doctors before a visit to the U.N. General Assembly next week.

"The gringos don't want me to go," Chavez told reporters at his red-carpet welcome to the Nonaligned Movement summit in Havana. "They denied a visa to my security, to my doctors. They don't want my advance team in New York."

Chavez said he would travel to the U.N. session regardless. "I'll go even if it's alone," said Chavez, whose government is campaigning for a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, over opposition from the U.S., which is backing Guatemala.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said it has received more than 200 visa requests for Chavez's U.N. delegation and that none have been denied to date.

"Nothing's been denied yet. They're still being processed," U.S. Embassy spokesman Brian Penn said.

Some applications have been complicated because they were filed at the last minute or because delegation members are not Venezuelans, Penn said. Cuban medical personnel are among the visa applicants, the embassy confirmed.

"There are members of the delegation that are not native Venezuelans and they require special procedures," said Penn. "Something similar occurred last year and we had the same problem."

Chavez made a similar complaint when he traveled to New York in September 2005, saying his medical team and chief of security were not allowed off the plane.

Chavez also raised his complaints on Tuesday night in an interview on Venezuelan state TV.

"They denied visas to all of my medical team, security, and even the chief of the Presidential Guard," he said. "They don't want us to go, but we'll go to New York next Wednesday anyway."