CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez told US officials to "Go to hell,
gringos!" on his weekly radio and TV show Sunday for what he called unacceptable
meddling after Washington raised concerns about a measure to grant Venezuela's
leader broad lawmaking powers.
The National Assembly is expected
to give final approval this week to what it calls the "enabling law," which
would give Chavez the authority to pass a series of laws by decree during an
this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez gestures during his weekly television show 'Hello President' in
Caracas, Sunday. Jan. 21, 2006. [AP]
On Friday, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Chavez's plans
under the law "have caused us some concern."
Chavez rejected Casey's statement in his broadcast, saying: "Go to hell,
gringos! Go home!"
Among Chavez's plans are nationalizing the main telecommunications company
and the electricity and natural gas sectors.
The president's opponents accuse him of using his political strength to
expand his powers.
Relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense since Chavez was
briefly ousted in a 2002 coup that he claimed the US played a role in. The Bush
administration has repeatedly denied being involved.
Chavez has consistently accused the US of conspiring to oust him and often
asserts the CIA is working to destabilize his government. US officials have
denied trying to overthrow Chavez, but they have labeled him a threat to
Criticizing excessive consumption and self-indulgence, Chavez also announced
plans in his broadcast to raise domestic gasoline prices and approve a new tax
on luxury goods such as private yachts, second homes and extravagant
He did not give details on the gas price hike, which he said would not affect
bus drivers who provide public transportation, or the luxury tax. He said
revenue from the new measures would be put toward government social programs.
Venezuela is one of the world's leading petroleum exporters and gasoline now
costs as little as 12 cents a gallon due to government subsidies.
In typical style, Chavez spoke for hours Sunday during his first appearance
on the weekly program in five months. He sent his best wishes to the ailing
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his close ally and friend who has been sidelined
since intestinal surgery last summer.
Chavez also remarked on the hanging of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein:
"They took out Saddam Hussein and they hanged him, for good or worse. It's not
up to me to judge any government, but that gentleman was the president of that