HAVANA - Declaring that U.S. citizens are oppressed by their own government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised Friday that he would not visit the United States again until Americans "liberate" their nation.
Chavez, in Havana for trade talks, told an international gathering of activists here that before an earlier trip to Cuba, a U.S. State Department undersecretary he did not identify warned him not to go because he would no longer be received in Washington.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) and his Cuban counterpart Fidel Castro (2nd R) laugh during an anti-Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) meeting in Havana April 28, 2005. The two leaders are seeking to build an alternative to the U.S.-backed FTAA, from which Cuba is excluded. Castro declared the FTAA dead and said the U.S. proposal for a single free-trade bloc of the Americas was an 'anexionist plan' aimed at plundering Latin American resources. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
He said he went ahead with that trip anyway, and later traveled to the United States to visit U.S. President George W. Bush, who he said greeted him with a Coca-Cola in his hand.
"I have not returned, nor do I think about returning again, until the people of the United States liberate that nation," said Chavez, saying that Americans are "oppressed" by their government and U.S. media.
While Chavez didn't elaborate, the implication was that he wouldn't return to the United States until the current administration was out of power.
Chavez considers Cuban President Fidel Castro a political ally and close personal friend, and Washington has grown increasingly alarmed by their deepening political and economic alliance.
During Chavez's current visit, the two countries have signed a host of economic and other accords, including a deal for Cuba to buy US$412 million (euro319 million) in goods from the South American nation, with Cuba waiving all import duties.
Venezuela's state oil company also has opened an office here this week, agreeing to help explore for and refine any crude deposits discovered off the island's coast. It also announced that the 53,000 barrels it has been sending to Cuba since 2000 at preferential terms was recently increased to up to 90,000 barrels daily.
Chavez also criticized the current Latin American tour by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to her as an "imperial lady" who is trying to divide and conquer the hemisphere's developing nations.
Despite Chavez's anti-U.S. comments, his country is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a top crude supplier to the United States.
© 2005 Associated Press