World News

Bush shoe thrower courageous: Venezuela's Chavez

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s anti-U.S. President Hugo Chavez said on Monday that an Iraqi reporter who flung his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush was courageous.

Chavez, who has himself hurled insults at the U.S. president over the years, said he was glad the shoes didn’t hit Bush but smiled broadly during a video of the incident played during a cabinet meeting broadcast on Venezuela television.

“It’s a good thing it didn’t hit him. I’m not encouraging throwing shoes at anybody, but really, what courage,” he said.

Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi threw two shoes at Bush and called him a “dog” during a Baghdad news conference on Sunday, an act that has won him instant fame across the world and wide support in the Middle East.

Chavez is a fierce critic of the U.S. war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan and frequently calls Bush a “donkey,” a “drunkard” or “Mr Danger.”

Most famously he called Bush the “Devil” during a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York, sniffing the air and saying it still smelt of sulfur after Bush had left the podium.

During ten years in office, Chavez has portrayed his socialist government as an alternative to the U.S. “empire.” He promotes alliances with countries including Iran, Cuba and Russia to weaken Washington’s influence on the world stage.

Venezuelan state television repeatedly replayed a clip of the shoe throwing incident on Monday.

Reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero; writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Todd Eastham