World News

Ex-soccer star Maradona tells Chavez he hates U.S.

Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona (R) speaks next to Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez while attending Chavez's broadcast "Alo Presidente", in Caracas August 19, 2007. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

CARACAS (Reuters) - Former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona on Sunday said he hates the United States “with all my strength” during an appearance on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s weekly television show.

The leftist soccer legend, like the fiercely anti-U.S. Chavez, is a close ally of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

“I believe in Chavez, I am Chavista ... . Everything Fidel does, everything Chavez does for me is the best (that can be done),” Maradona said, sitting with Chavez on the set of the president’s Sunday talk show.

“I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength,” he added to thunderous applause and cheering from the hundreds of Chavez supporters gathered in an auditorium for the show.

Chavez, a self-described socialist revolutionary, is an unrelenting critic of Washington and frequently describes the United States as a decadent empire.

U.S. State Department officials call Chavez a threat to regional democracy and accuse him of using the OPEC nation’s oil wealth to meddle in the affairs of neighboring nations.

Maradona, 46, received drug rehabilitation treatment in Cuba following a hospital stay in 2000 linked to cocaine use. In 2005 he launched a television talk show that lasted one season.

One of the most brilliant soccer players ever, he led Argentina to its 1986 World Cup victory and is revered in his own country and around the world.