Published September 21, 2006
NEW YORK – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, appearing Thursday at a Harlem Church for an oil-for-poor event, repeated his 'devil' reference hurled a day earlier at President Bush during a speech at the United Nations.
"They told me that I should be careful after I called him the devil — and I think he is the devil — because he might kill me" Chavez told a crowd packed into the Mount Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem.
"But, I place myself in the hands of God," he said.
Chavez, who was introduced at the podium by activist-actor Danny Glover, was visiting the church as part of ceremonies to announce the sale of discounted home heating oil to qualified low-income families.
The appearance came a day after Chavez delivered an insult-riddled speech at the U.N. General Assembly in which he called President Bush the 'devil.'
As Chavez spoke in Harlem, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel railed against the Venezuelan leader for choosing his New York congressional district to launch an attack on the president of the United States.
"You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district and criticize my president, " Rangel said from Capitol Hill.
He added that "it would be crazy to think that Americans do not feel offended" by Chavez's remarks.
New York Governor George Pataki called for a united front by Americans from all political parties to stand together against Chavez.
"This person has no right coming to our country to criticize our president," Pataki said in a phone interview on FOX News.
"He can take his cheap oil and do something for the poor people of Venezuela."
In Harlem, the crowd chanted in Spanish, "Chavez, Chavez, the people are with you," as he walked into the church dressed in his signature red shirt.
Chavez called Bush a "sick man" who was "very dangerous because he has so much power."
He again waved a copy of the book, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," written by American leftist writer Noam Chomsky, and at one point left his long, rambling talk to read passages aloud.
On several occasions, he tried to make the point that he was a good friend of Americans, and that the Bush administration was painting him as the enemy.
"I pray that the American people will elect a president we can negotiate with," Chavez said, claiming that he loved the American people, but that it was difficult for him to visit the U.S. because he was "threatened."
The Venezuelan strongman spoke of his alliance with Cuba, a country he said had "been choked" by the U.S., and of his close friendship with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Chavez said their cooperation had improved the lives of Cubans and Venezuelans alike.
The event, one of a series designed to boost the Venezuelan leader's popularity in the U.S., was organized by Citgo, a Houston-based energy company that is owned and controlled by the Venezuelan government.
Venezuelan officials and Citgo employees handed out T-shirts before the event with the name of the program — "From The Venezuelan Heart To The U.S. Hearths" — printed across the front.
Chavez claimed the Citgo program would benefit over 450,000 American families over the winter months, and that it was made possible because the program cuts out the "greedy capitalist element."
"That's another thing we're doing with this Bolivarian Revolution," he said referring to the name he has given his economic platform. "We're transferring the power to the people."