Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chavez, Ortega chide Obama over "stuck" Latam policy

Chavez, Ortega chide Obama over stuck Latam policy
By Pascal Fletcher
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Reuters) - The presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua, both fierce critics of U.S. policy, on Friday accused President Barack Obama of failing to deliver on his promise to make a new start in ties with Latin America.
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, both staunch allies of Cuba's communist leadership, made the criticism while attending a summit in St. Kitts and Nevis of the Venezuelan-backed energy alliance PetroCaribe.
Chavez, who told Obama at a Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April "I want to be your friend," said the new U.S. president was not making good on his public commitment to change the way Washington deals with Latin America.
"Obama should carry out what he said, but it's not happening," Chavez told reporters after the summit concluded.
The Venezuelan president, whose oil-exporting country remains a leading energy supplier to the United States, was a virulent critic of what he called the "imperialist" policies of Obama's predecessor George W. Bush.
"It's the same old empire. Let's hope that Obama has the courage, the capacity and the support to dismantle that empire," Chavez said. He also rejected U.S. allegations that his government was limiting freedom of expression by pursuing media critics, calling this view "a great cynicism."
"If there's no respect, there's nothing," he said.
Earlier, Nicaragua's leftist leader, Ortega, accused Obama's administration of being "stuck in the past" in its policies toward his country and Cuba.
Nicaragua and Cuba belong to the 18-nation PetroCaribe alliance created by Chavez in 2005 that groups OPEC member Venezuela with oil-importing Caribbean and Central America states, allowing them to buy Venezuelan oil on easier terms.
While most PetroCaribe leaders present used the one-day meeting in St. Kitts to praise Venezuela's oil support for the economic and social development of their countries, Ortega made a point of attacking U.S. strategy in Latin America.
'GOOD INTENTIONS'
He said Obama, despite displaying good intentions, appeared to be repeating hostile policies established by predecessors like Bush and Ronald Reagan toward regional governments Washington disapproved of, including Nicaragua and Cuba.
"We've all recognized in President Obama a man of good intentions, but he's caught in a system, which by its own nature is expansionist, interventionist," Ortega said.
He criticized the United States for canceling more than $60 million in assistance to Nicaragua this week.
The Millennium Challenge Corp, a U.S. taxpayer-funded operation set up by former President Bush to fight poverty in developing nations, said it took the decision because of problems in local elections last year in Nicaragua. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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