Chavez Says U.S. Empire Will Soon Fall, Calls Bush 'Devil'

The United States will soon lose its place as leader of the world, and the United Nations is a broken organization that is beyond repair, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday.

“The United States empire is on its way down and it will be finished in the near future, inshallah," Chavez told reporters, ending the statement with the Arabic phrase for "God willing."

Chavez said that the United Nations is a “deceased” organization because it was formed to bridge the differences between the United States and Russia, and a brand new international organization would have to be formed to replace it.

Earlier, Chavez initiated a verbal assault on President Bush, calling him "the devil" during an insult-riddled address to world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.

"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, gesturing to where Bush had stood during his speech on Tuesday. "He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world."
He later said he was referring to President Bush when he spoke of the devil.

Chavez held up a book by American leftist writer Noam Chomsky "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance" and recommended it to everyone in the General Assembly.

He also lambasted the U.S. government for trying to block Venezuela's campaign for a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council. He said if chosen over U.S.-favorite Guatemala in a secret-ballot U.N. vote next month, Venezuela would be "the voice of the Third World."

The council currently consists of five permanent members with veto power — the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France — and 10 non-permanent members who serve two-year terms and have no power to veto resolutions. The 10 elected members do have the right to propose resolutions, chair committees and hold the rotating council presidency for one-month periods.

Five countries from different regions are elected every year by the General Assembly to replace five retiring ones.

The U.S. government warns that Chavez, a close ally of Iran, Syria and Cuba, would be a disruptive force on the council.

"The imperialists see extremists everywhere. No, we aren't extremists," Chavez said in his speech. "What's happening is the world is waking up." He said many in the world now subscribe to the battle cry: "Yankee empire, go home!"

Holding a rotating Security Council seat would bring Chavez a higher profile and a platform to challenge the U.S. on its stances in regions from the Middle East to Latin America.

The campaign is shaping up to be a formidable diplomatic test for Chavez, gauging his ability to lobby head-to-head against the U.S.

In the past few months, Chavez has crisscrossed the globe collecting promises of support, visiting about a dozen countries including Russia, Belarus, Iran, Vietnam, Qatar, Mali, Benin, China, Malaysia and Syria. His diplomats also have been busy, while top Guatemalan officials and U.S. diplomats also have been doing their own lobbying.

Chavez said he has the solid backing of the Caribbean Community, the Arab League, Russia, China and much of Africa, in addition to his allies across South America.

But winning a Security Council seat requires a two-thirds majority — 128 out of 192 U.N. members — and Guatemala says it has 90 votes secured. If neither side wins the necessary two-thirds, there could be more rounds of lobbying and voting next month, possibly followed by a search for an alternate candidate.

Chavez, in his drive to counter U.S. influence around the globe, is practicing a unique "diplomacy for show" that thrives on protagonism and confrontation, said Milos Alcalay, who was Chavez's U.N. ambassador until he resigned in 2004 amid differences with the government.

"A post for non-permanent membership in the Security Council has never been so politicized," Alcalay said. If Venezuela manages to win the seat, "it will be a rock in the shoe of the United States" and any other countries Chavez differs with, he said.

The Venezuelan leader, a close friend and admirer of Cuba's communist leader Fidel Castro, has sought to be a voice for poor countries and has warned that if the U.S. tries to block U.N. reform, Venezuela and others may eventually create a separate "United Nations of the south" to rival a body they no longer find democratic.

Chavez also said it might eventually be necessary to move the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.

He reiterated his accusations that the U.S. planned and financed a short-lived coup that briefly unseated him in 2002, and said with Washington's backing Israel had carried out a "genocide" in Lebanon.

Chavez's government still earns handsomely from oil sales to the U.S., Venezuela's top export market, but he has crusaded against its capitalist system, selling millions of gallons (liters) of heating oil at a discount to low-income American families.

Dozens gathered in a downtown square in Caracas to watch Chavez on a large-screen TV as the government took over all TV and radio channels to broadcast the speech live. The crowd in the square spontaneously broke into applause during some of his harsher criticisms of the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.