CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's vice president derided Sen. John McCain for suggesting that "wackos" run the South American country, saying Monday that the United States should focus on its own problems.
Jose Vicente Rangel was responding to McCain's statement on Sunday that America must explore alternative energy sources to avoid depending on Iran or "wackos" in Venezuela — apparently a reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
"It looks like they have nothing else to do in the United States," Rangel said, adding that the Americans have "so many problems, 40 million poor people, 30 million drug users, and an American senator is paying attention to us. He can go to hell."
McCain, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2008, said recent actions by Chavez and by Iran's leaders make it clear that the United States will be vulnerable as long as it remains dependent on foreign energy.
"We've got to get quickly on a track to energy independence from foreign oil, and that means, among other things, going back to nuclear power," the Arizona senator said on FOX News Sunday. "We better understand the vulnerabilities that our economy, and our very lives, have when we're dependent on Iranian mullahs and wackos in Venezuela."
Despite political differences between Caracas and Washington, the United States remains the top buyer of oil from Venezuela, the world's No. 5 exporter.
Chavez has repeatedly accused the United States of conspiring to topple his government, an allegation U.S. officials deny.
The Venezuelan leader says his government would halt oil exports to the United States if Washington ever attempted to invade this South American nation.