CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez on Friday condemned a U.S. report that alleges Venezuela fails to cooperate in fighting terrorism and called on President Barack Obama to end the decades-long trade embargo against Cuba.
Two weeks after Chavez and Obama exchanged smiles and handshakes at a summit in Trinidad and Tobago, the Venezuelan leader called the report "one more slander" that brings into question Obama's pledges of change.
"In the name of the Venezuelan people, I reject this new aggression by the U.S. empire," Chavez said.
The U.S. State Department's 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism criticized Chavez's "ideological sympathy" for leftist rebel groups in Colombia, saying it "limits Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism." The report issued Thursday also accused the Venezuelan government of failing to systematically police its border with Colombia.
Chavez dismissed the charges, then called on Obama to prove he really wants change by ending the "criminal" embargo against Cuba.
"If Obama doesn't knock down the savage blockade against the Cuban people, it's all a lie. Everything would be a big farce," Chavez said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday acknowledged growing pressure from other Western Hemisphere nations to lift the U.S. freeze on relations with Cuba, but added that Obama would like to see some "reciprocity" from Cuba's leadership after he lifted travel and financial restrictions on Americans with Cuban relatives.
She said the Obama administration aims to turn around policies embraced by former President George W. Bush. She said the attempt to "isolate" Latin America's leftist leaders had enabled them to promote anti-U.S. sentiment while strengthening ties with China, Iran and Russia.
Venezuela's rocky relations with the Bush administration reached a low point last September when Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador and recalled his envoy to Washington.
Clinton noted she discussed with Chavez the possibility of restoring a U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. The Venezuelan leader said following the April summit in Trinidad and Tobago that he would send a new ambassador to Washington.
Despite years of political tensions, Venezuela remains the fourth-largest oil supplier to the United States.