CARACAS Socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez condemned on Saturday the "horrible repression" of anti-Wall Street protesters and termed a Republican presidential candidate "crazy" for his criticism of Cuba and Venezuela.
Although still convalescing from cancer surgery in June followed by four rounds of chemotherapy, the 57-year-old Venezuelan president is quickly returning to the tough rhetoric and strong views that have made him famous worldwide.
Not surprisingly, Chavez expressed solidarity with American activists who have been staging rallies and marches against what they view as corporate greed by Wall Street.
The U.S. protests, which began last month in New York and have spread to Tampa, Florida, Seattle and other cities, have mostly been peaceful but sometimes resulted in confrontations. Dozens were arrested and police used pepper spray in New York earlier this week.
"This movement of popular outrage is expanding to 10 cities and the repression is horrible, I don't know how many are in prison now," Chavez said in comments at a political meeting in his Caracas presidential palace shown on state TV.
Chavez, who runs for re-election in a year's time and traditionally ramps up his anti-capitalist rhetoric to try and rally supporters before a vote, also let rip at Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who referred to the "malign socialism" of Cuba and Venezuela in a speech on Friday.
"He's been attacking Venezuela and Cuba, and talking about the malign government of Hugo Chavez. And he has the arrogance to say that God created the United States so the United States can rule the world," Chavez said.
"And that crazy man might be the president of the United States, in elections that are just after ours."
Venezuela's presidential vote is in October 2012, before the U.S. vote in November.
Chavez said again he was sure he would be given a clean bill of health in time to run a vigorous campaign for re-election in the South American OPEC member nation.
He would return to Cuba, where he was operated on in June to remove a malignant tumor, in a few days for final checks, Chavez said. "We're going to do all the examinations to confirm what we think up to now, that there are no malignant cells left in my body," he told the meeting.
Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has sought to project himself as a leader of a global "anti-imperialist" movement.
He and allies in the ruling Socialist Party have been gloating over economic and social problems in the United States and Europe as evidence of capitalism's impending downfall.
"Poverty's growing, the misery is getting worse," he said, referring to the causes of the U.S. protests. "But that empire is still there, still a threat ... (President Barack) Obama is on his way down, for lots of reasons. He was a big fraud."
(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Paul Simao)