Hugo Chávez: The US is inciting people to kill Fidel Castro
Venezuela’s president has condemned the United States as a “terrorist state” for toughening sanctions against Cuba.
Hugo Chávez vowed on Sunday that his government would increase its trade and cooperation with the Communist island.
In a television broadcast, the left-wing leader attacked Washington’s measures announced on Thursday which seek to reduce still further the flow of dollars to cash-strapped Cuba.
The policy includes an increase in support for internal opponents of President Fidel Castro.
“That’s called state terrorism, inciting people to kill President Castro, to overthrow him, inciting violence,” Chavez said.
Since he was elected in 1998, Chavez has angered the US by forging a close relationship with Cuba – the target of a long-running US trade embargo.
Venezuela is Cuba’s biggest trade partner, sending cheap oil to Havana, while more than 10,000 Cuban doctors, sports instructors and other experts work in the South American country.
He said he had ordered the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), to study the possibility of investing in an idle Soviet-built refinery at Cienfuegos on the island’s south-central coast.
Under a 2000 energy accord, Venezuela ships at least 53,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba.
Earlier, Chavez said his security forces captured a large force of Colombian paramilitaries who were being trained by his opponents to overthrow him.
“We’ve delivered a body-blow to the coup-plotters and the terrorists,” Chavez said in a television broadcast that seemed to herald an imminent crackdown against opponents.
The president said 80 Colombians dressed in Venezuelan military uniforms were seized in a raid early on Sunday on a ranch owned by a Cuban exile among hills on the southern outskirts of Caracas.
Security officials said the operation netted 56 Colombians inside the camp. They gave up without a fight and a further 24 were captured later.
None of the alleged Venezuelan ringleaders were found at the camp, but Chavez said they would be brought to justice.
Venezuela’s opposition, campaigning to trigger an August referendum on Chavez’s rule, dismissed the operation as a crude government ploy to discredit them, torpedo the referendum attempt and justify police persecution.
“If these are paramilitaries, then they are pacifist paramilitaries because they don’t have any guns,” scoffed anti-Chavez mayor Henrique Capriles, in whose Baruta district the men were arrested.