- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Chavez insults Rice

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice illiterate and suggested in a speech last week that she had sexual dreams about him, prompting outrage among Venezuelan women’s groups, which denounced his “obscene and lewd” remarks.

In his Jan. 23 speech, Mr. Chavez said Miss Rice “keeps demonstrating complete illiteracy.”

“It seems that she dreams about me. I can invite her on a date with me to see what happens to her with me. She said that she was sad and depressed because of Chavez. Oh, daddy! She should forget me. What bad luck this lady has. I don’t want to make that sacrifice for my nation,” he said, according to Venezuelan reports.

Mr. Chavez’s outburst followed Miss Rice’s criticism of his increasingly authoritarian rule in testimony at her Senate confirmation hearing last month.

She called Mr. Chavez a “negative force” in Latin America and accused him of meddling in the affairs of his neighboring states. Colombia, for example, has complained that Mr. Chavez is sheltering Colombian Marxist rebels.

“We are very concerned about a democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way,” Miss Rice said of Mr. Chavez.

The National Women’s Front of Venezuela expressed disdain for Mr. Chavez’s comments in a letter delivered to Ambassador William Brownfield at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Caracas.

The contents of the letter, signed by 48 representatives of 26 groups, were included in an unclassified cable to Washington, an administration source said yesterday. The groups included women’s rights organizations, political opposition parties, labor unions and civil rights advocates.

They expressed embarrassment “regarding the inconsiderate, obscene and lewd statements made by President Chavez during a public speech.”

They said that “we reject not only such disrespectful language, but we especially reject the sexist, macho and authoritarian concept hidden behind it.”

Mr. Chavez demonstrated the type of behavior that “we have tried to eradicate with our struggles to reach true gender equality in our country and in the world,” they said.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have deteriorated steadily since the leftist president was elected in 1998 and began establishing close contacts with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The latest State Department human rights report criticizes the Chavez government’s rights record and intimidation of political opponents.

Justice for Ethiopia

The U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia is calling for the government to keep its promise to prosecute police, soldiers or other officials responsible for hundreds of killings in ethnic violence in the western Gambella region.

“As promised by the government, it is important that all those involved in the outbreak of ethnic strife in the region in December 2003 and early 2004 be brought to justice, including those in the government, police or military. Doing so would discourage renewed violence and restore confidence,” Ambassador Aurelia Brazeal said this week upon returning to the capital, Addis Ababa, after a visit to the region.

The ambassador held talks with leaders of the three ethnic communities, the Annuak, Nuer and highlanders. She also met with Keat Tuach Bithow, vice president of the Gambella People’s National Regional State Administrative Council.

The ambassador noted that the leaders of the communities are “focused not upon retribution but upon peace, reconciliation and building a better future for themselves and their families.”

The central government has denied that Ethiopian troops were involved in the conflicts, insisting that the soldiers saved lives by intervening in the clashes. The government also has dismissed estimates by human rights organizations that put the death toll at more than 100 people.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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