Venezuela Blocks Singer Alejandro Sanz From Stadium Performance for Chavez Criticism

Venezuela's government has blocked a popular Spanish singer from using a stadium because he criticized President Hugo Chavez three years ago.

Higher Education Minister Luis Acuna said Alejandro Sanz would not be allowed to hold his scheduled Nov. 1 concert at the Poliedro — a state-controlled stadium — because of his past criticism of the Chavez and his "Bolivarian Revolution," a political movement named after independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Acuna said during a radio interview: "If an artist comes to Venezuela to rail against Chavez, against the Bolivarian project, how do you think the people of this country would respond if he were to be allowed to use" the stadium?

Responding to questions about Chavez before a 2004 referendum on the president's rule, Sanz said: "I don't like your president. I don't like those from other places either."

Sanz, a Latin Grammy winner who's immensely popular in Venezuela, could offer the concert in a privately owned venue, Acuna said. He did not explain why the government had initially agreed to the concert, which 15,000 fans were expected to attend.

Sanz' publicist in the United States did not immediately respond to calls from The Associated Press.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, warned in July that foreigners who publicly criticize him or his government while visiting Venezuela would be expelled from the country.