CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to the
national spotlight Wednesday, saying that he missed Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's criticism.
"It had been days since she had
given me any attention," Chavez said in a speech to pensioners in the capital of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez applauds during a meeting
with retired employees in Caracas, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. [AP]
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
"If they do not want to buy it, say it, and I will not sell them oil," he