NEW YORK — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his Bush-bashing to Harlem yesterday and earned a stiff rebuke from the New York district’s congressman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, who is no fan of President Bush.
“You don’t come into my country, you don’t come into my congressional district and criticize my president,” Mr. Rangel, a Democrat, told stunned reporters on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Rangel, who is one of Mr. Bush’s harshest critics, said no foreign official should assume that “Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state.”
At Harlem’s Mount Olivet Baptist Church yesterday, Mr. Chavez referred to the insults that he delivered at the United Nations’ General Assembly a day earlier.
“They told me that I should be careful after I called [Mr. Bush] the devil — and I think he is the devil — because he might kill me” Mr. Chavez told an overflow crowd.
He also called Mr. Bush “an alcoholic and a very sick man.”
In his remarks to the annual U.N. General Assembly debate Wednesday, the Venezuelan president first called Mr. Bush the devil and said “it still smells of sulfur” at the podium, where Mr. Bush had spoken a day earlier.
Mr. Chavez repeated his devil remarks for reporters later Wednesday and also called Mr. Bush “the genocide president.”
He spoke at the Harlem church yesterday for nearly two hours, in which he mocked Mr. Bush by mimicking a cowboy’s gun-slinging stance.
Mr. Chavez’s performance in New York this week also offended several prominent Democrats on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but all he is an everyday thug,” Mrs. Pelosi said.
She added that Mr. Chavez had “demeaned himself, and he demeaned Venezuela.”
Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat, said, “His personal attacks and ridicule directed at the president of the United States are unacceptable.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, defended Mr. Chavez in an interview with Radio Iowa.
Though the remarks were “incendiary,” Mr. Harkin said, “I can understand the frustration, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush’s policies.”