Chavez says he misses Rice's criticism

Updated: 2007-02-15 13:38

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to the national spotlight Wednesday, saying that he missed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's criticism.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez applauds during a meeting with retired employees in Caracas, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. [AP]
"It had been days since she had given me any attention," Chavez said in a speech to pensioners in the capital of Caracas.

The remarks were Chavez's first response to Rice's testimony last week before a congressional committee in Washington that the president was "destroying his own country" - an apparent reference to a centralization of power in Venezuela and moves to nationalize key economic sectors.

"My dear friend Condoleezza says I am destroying the Venezuelan economy," said Chavez, a fierce critic of US -style capitalism. "Death to the empire! We will not be dominated. We have decided to be free!"

Chavez also said Venezuela was unconcerned with plans by the Bush administration to become less dependent on crude oil from politically unfriendly nations.

"If they do not want to buy it, say it, and I will not sell them oil," he said.

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