Romney, Obama clash over Chavez threat

2012-07-12 09:08

Miami - Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday clashed with President Barack Obama over how serious a security threat Iranian ally Venezuela poses to the United States.

Under firebrand leftist leader Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of US policy, Venezuela has developed close ties with Washington's foes Cuba and Iran.

In an interview aired on Tuesday, Obama said while Chavez's "destabilising activity" was of concern, "my sense is that what Mr Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us".

On Wednesday, Romney pounced on the comments, which were given to Miami's Spanish-language America TeVe broadcaster, branding Obama's stance "stunning and shocking".

"It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to US interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill," the Republican White House hopeful said in a strongly-worded statement, attacking his rival ahead of the November vote.

"Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organisations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country's borders."

Later, on Fox News, Romney said: "It's an extraordinary admission on the part of this president to be completely out of touch with what's happened in Latin America."

Under fire from the West for its disputed nuclear programme, Iran has sought closer political and economic relations with countries far and wide, including many in Latin America, as its standoff with the West drags on.

Restoring the nation’s standing

Chavez, who has criticised tough sanctions on Iran, has visited Tehran more than a dozen times since taking power in 1999 and recently hosted his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

During that visit, the two leaders pledged to battle "imperialism".

The two states also engage in military co-operation and last month Chavez caused a stir when he announced that, with Iranian help, he had made his first drone and planned to soon begin exporting the unmanned aircraft.

Obama campaign spokesperson Ben LaBolt fired back at Romney on Wednesday, saying the Republican was "playing into the hands of Chavez by acting like he's 10 feet tall".

"President Obama has refused to be distracted by the outdated rhetoric of people like Hugo Chavez and instead has focused on restoring our nation's standing in Latin America," LaBolt said.

Republican lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, came to Romney's defence, saying: "In Chavez, we have a dictator who has systematically crushed democracy within his own country."

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-12 09:15

    "Obama said while Chavez's "destabilising activity" was of concern," Yet it is Chavez who had to survive a CIA sponsored coup, followed by a Bush financed referendum.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-12 12:29

      And the syrian ambassador to Iraq defected because he is not rational any more?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-14 18:02

      Fidel's obsessive and immature "West is evil" core belief at play again.

  • Vuyo - 2012-07-14 17:36

    Hugo Chavez can never be a threat to humanity but to the greed, fraud, swindling, exploitation, murder, genocide, complicities,imperialism, war mongering, invasions and destructions of many nations and countries that have been made by the US, NATO and their surrogates in the whole world. Their own citizens knows and are saying it regularly. Chaves is a friend of Humanity and the struggling and exploited peoples of the world.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-14 17:59

      Yeah right. You obviously like narcissistic egomaniacs as leaders.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-14 18:02

      Vuyo, Don't talk such absolute rubbish, Venezuela is one of the most violent and corrupt nations in the world. there is also an unacceptable large poverty in this country. This is a country that is fortunate that the oil , and through that Billions, out of the ground. It is hard to believe, ANYONE could have done a worse job that this guy. If he had not warmed up to terrorists , like that rot gaddafi and Ahmadinejad, and instead had good relations with the West, 'his' people would have benefitted so much more, than they have up to now. When he goes, it certainly won't be a loss for the Venuzuelans!!

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