- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that he is preparing plenty of verbal “artillery” for his first encounter with President Barack Obama at an upcoming summit.

Chavez _ long a fierce critic of Washington _ said he expects that the future of U.S. relations with Latin America will begin to take shape at April’s summit of leaders from across the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Our artillery is being prepared. There’s going to be good artillery,” Chavez said during a televised Cabinet meeting.

“What will Mr. Obama come with? I don’t know. We’re going to see. We’ll see what the pitcher throws,” Chavez said.

Chavez said that immediately before the Americas summit in Trinidad, he will host leaders of nations in his Bolivarian Alternative trade pact for talks in Caracas on April 16. He also said he plans talks with the leader of Paraguay, and possibly Uruguay, before the summit.

Chavez called the U.S. embargo against Cuba “absurd and stupid,” saying he hopes to see the new U.S. administration define its stance on the issue.

The socialist leader also called it wrong for Cuba to be excluded from the Americas summit, saying that issue “has to be discussed.”

“Cuba is in Latin America. It’s no longer the Cuba that was kicked out of the OAS by those governments subordinated to the Pentagon,” Chavez said. “With what right, for example, am I going to go to a summit where all of Latin America is there … and Cuba isn’t there? Why?”

Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962 after member nations said its communist regime went against OAS principles.

Briefly switching into English, Chavez said the upcoming summit will be “very interesting.”

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