CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday called President Barack Obama "ignorant," saying he has a lot to learn about Latin America.
The Venezuelan leader said he had been ready to name a new ambassador in Washington when Obama took office, but put that on hold after the new U.S. president accused him of "exporting terrorism" and being an obstacle to progress in the region.
"At least one could say, 'poor ignorant person,"' Chavez said on his weekly television and radio program, adding that Obama "should read a little bit so that he learns about ... the reality of Latin America."
Chavez's relations with Washington grew increasingly strained under former President George W. Bush. The Venezuelan president expelled the U.S. ambassador and withdrew his envoy from Washington in September. Top diplomats have yet to be restored at either embassy.
Chavez and Obama both plan to attend a summit of leaders from across the Americas next month in Trinidad and Tobago. There, Chavez said he will make a case for Cuba to be included in regional talks, saying "we can no longer continue to accept the impositions of the U.S. empire."
"We ask only for respect for Venezuela, nothing else," Chavez said. "If Obama respects us, we'll respect him. If Obama tries to keep disrespecting Venezuela, we will confront the U.S. empire."
Chavez said he showed some of the U.S. administration's critical remarks about him to U.S. Rep. William Delahunt when the Massachusetts Democrat visited Caracas last week.
"They keep pointing to me as the bad boy, as the one who attacks," Chavez said. "Who stared the attack first? Obama."
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Sunday.