CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said in a New Year’s message the “illusion” around President Barack Obama was over and rich nations had left the world on the verge of ecological disaster.
Quoting from both Karl Marx and the Virgin Mary, Latin America’s leading critic of U.S. power said only socialist and Christian principles could right the wrongs of capitalism.
“It’s not an easy task, I acknowledge,” Chavez said in a written message carried by state media on Monday.
Chavez initially sought to foster good ties with Obama, shaking his hand and giving him a book at a regional summit. But he has been increasingly critical of late, saying Obama failed to curb “imperialist” policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was tolerant toward a coup leader in Honduras.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: the Obama illusion has finished, and the shameless interventionism of the American administration shows that,” wrote Chavez.
Having opposed the Copenhagen climate change summit’s final agreement as a behind-doors deal between major powers that ignored nations on the margins, Chavez said rich nations were making a mockery of U.N. principles of equality.
“Those leaving us on the verge of an unimaginable ‘ecocide,’ those who caused climate change, should be forced to accept their responsibilities,” he said.
Chavez has ruled South America’s top oil-exporter for more than a decade, and faces legislative elections in 2010, then a presidential vote in 2012.
His normally high popularity has slipped to around 50 percent this year, with Venezuelans increasingly anxious over crime, stuttering water and power services, harsh measures against opposition parties, and an economic recession.
But Chavez remains the towering figure of Venezuela’s politics, dominating the air-waves with near-daily speeches, and still highly popular among Venezuela’s poor, who credit him for social policies like free healthcare.
Analysts expect Chavez to win the 2010 National Assembly vote, albeit it with a reduced majority.
“The elections are crucial to the continuation and deepening socialism of the Bolivarian Revolution,” said Chavez, whose idol is Venezuela’s independence hero Simon Bolivar.
In his New Year’s message, Chavez said Venezuela was coming out of the “hell” of four decades of capitalism before him.
He noted new government measures, including a Corporation of Socialist Markets set up to provide cheap products ranging from cars to “arepas,” the popular local pancake.
One of his ministers manned a new “Socialist Arepa Shop” in Caracas last week.
Editing by Vicki Allen