World News

Chavez says U.S. ties would be no warmer with Obama

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday his prickly relations with Washington would not improve even if Democrat candidate Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidential election in November.

Chavez, a relentless critic of U.S. foreign policy and President George W. Bush, advocates weakening the influence of the United States and calls the nation “the empire.”

Chavez told his supporters not to raise their hopes that relations with the United States would improve if Obama is elected U.S. president, saying there was little difference between him and Republican candidate John McCain.

“The two candidates for the U.S. presidency attack us equally, they attack us defending the interests of the empire,” Chavez said at a meeting of his socialist party.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, it is the empire and the empire must fall. That’s the only solution, that it comes to an end.”

Obama said earlier in his campaign that he would be prepared to sit down to talk with Chavez. But in recent weeks he has called the leftist Venezuelan leader an enemy of the United States and urged sanctions against him.

Chavez also had previously expressed a hope that the end of the Bush administration would bring warmer ties between the two countries.

The United States considers Chavez a negative influence in Latin America and has accused him of being soft on cocaine traffickers and of having ties to Marxist guerrillas in Colombia.

Although Venezuela is one of America’s top crude oil suppliers, relations between the two countries have deteriorated since a brief 2002 coup against Chavez that Washington initially welcomed.

Reporting by Patricia Rondon