ABC News' Barbara Walters sits down with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for an interview in which Chavez shares his views on the United States, President Bush and America's 2008 presidential elections.
Hugo Chavez made headlines across America when he famously called Bush "the devil" in a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York last year.
When Walters asks Chavez about the name-calling, he explains it by saying that he wanted his strong words to bring attention to the facts. "Yes, I call him a devil in the United Nations," says Chavez. "That's true. Another time, I said that he was a donkey just because I think that he is very ignorant … about the things that are actually happening in Latin America and the world. If that is an excess on my side, I accept. And I might apologize. But who is causing more harm? He burns people, villages and he … invades nations."
Chavez also accuses Bush of planning a coup against him. The Venezuelan president briefly lost power in a coup in 2002 but with help from a popular uprising against the coup leaders, reclaimed his position within days.
Bush is not the only U.S. official to become the butt of Chavez's words. Chavez has referred to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an illiterate who suffers from sexual frustration. Chavez shrugs off these insults as jokes, saying that his words are nothing when compared to the the loss of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About both Bush and Rice, Chavez says, "As a lady I respect her, for the president of the United States, as a human being, I respect him, but they are killing people."
CIA Assassination Plot
Chavez insists that the CIA is collaborating with dissident elements within Venezuela to assassinate him. He says the CIA killed Chile's President Salvador Allende in 1981, and has attempted to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba.
The New York Times reported in 2004 on an intelligence brief showing that the CIA was aware of plans of a coup against Chavez. The documents do not, however, indicate that the CIA or the Bush administration supported the coup in any way.
Possibly sending a message to his supporters, Chavez tells Walters, "If something happens to me, if I get killed, the president of the United States should be held responsible."
Despite the animosity between the two nations, Venezuela continues to be the U.S.'s fourth-largest supplier of oil. He says that "Venezuela is supporting tens of thousands of poor families in the United States with heating oil," and that his country sends "1.5 million barrels of oil" to the United States every day. Chavez also says, "There is no intention to reduce or eliminate that supply, but we have said, in case of any other aggression by the U.S. administration, we would cut this oil supply, but we expect this not [going] to happen."
Chavez refuses to endorse an American presidential candidate for 2008, saying that his support would be a burden for the candidate. He does, however, express great confidence that if he could run for president in the United States, he would have no trouble winning and that he could win over any right wing candidate within six months.
Asked about his governing methods, Chavez dismisses the idea that he rules by decree, saying instead that he leads a society that is both socialist and democratic. He calls himself "an enemy of an empire who wants to dominate the world" but a "friend of equality and freedom."
Though Chavez affirms his support for the state of Israel, he also says that he would support Iran against any attack from the United States. Chavez expresses doubt that there would ever be such an attack, cautioning that it would be "a boomerang" and seen as an attack against the entire world.
Chavez also updates Walters on the health of his friend Fidel Castro of Cuba. He says that Castro is making a remarkable recovery from a very serious illness and insists that the Cuban leader has not stopped governing. Says Chavez: "He's got a rein in his hand and the other rein is in Raul's [Fidel's brother's] hand."
Walters asks Chavez about Bush's just concluded five-nation trip through Latin America, asking how he'd rate it on a scale of one to 10. "One," says Chavez. "One, because I am generous. Because it could be minus five."