Chávez dismisses US concerns on democracy
Wednesday, 24th May 2006
From Yahoo Website
By Christopher Toothaker, Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chávez dismissed U.S. concerns over democracy in Venezuela, saying President Bush is "demolishing" his own country's democracy by spying on fellow Americans and violating the rights of immigrants in the war on terror.
Speaking a day after Bush said he was "concerned about the erosion of democracy" in Venezuela and Bolivia, Chavez also accused Bush on Tuesday of posing a threat to world peace.
"Democracy and the fundamental principles of that country, which were held up by Abraham Lincoln among others, are being demolished," said Chavez, citing a domestic spying program that many Americans have criticized as a violation of civil liberties.
"We'll have to tell the U.S. president that we are very worried because his imperialist, war-mongering government is dangerously eroding the possibility of peace and life on this planet," he added.
Relations between Caracas and Washington further deteriorated last week when the Bush administration banned arms sales from the United States to Venezuela because of what it says is a lack of support by Chavez's government for counterterror activities.
Chávez has criticized Washington for what he calls a double standard on terrorism by deciding to free two dissident Venezuelan military officers accused of playing roles in Caracas bombings.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday saying the U.S. State Department notified Venezuela's embassy in Washington that the extradition of former army Lts. Jose Antonio Colina and German Rodolfo Varela was rejected because it lacked sufficient evidence.
"U.S. territory has become a sanctuary for terrorists," said the statement.
Colina and Varela have been detained by U.S. immigration officials since 2003 when they requested asylum in Miami. Chavez's administration requested in 2004 that they be extradited to Venezuela, where they are wanted for allegedly participating in February 2003 bombings at the Spanish Embassy and Colombian Consulate in Caracas that left four injured.
The suspects argued that prosecutors accused them because they belonged to a group of officers who occupied a Caracas plaza in 2002 and futilely called for rebellion against Chávez.