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World News

Mexico ex-president Fox calls Chavez "dictatorial"

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox (L) and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in a 2000 file photo. Fox said he was ready to ride his horse to Venezuela to defend the South American nation from the "dictatorial" government of Chavez, a Mexican newspaper reported on Thursday. REUTERS/File

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Former Mexican president Vicente Fox said he was ready to ride his horse to Venezuela to defend the South American nation from the “dictatorial” government of Hugo Chavez, a Mexican newspaper reported on Thursday.

According to Mexican daily El Universal, Fox, famous for his cowboy boots, remarked during a visit to San Diego, California, that he would gallop south to save Venezuela from Chavez’s “authoritarian, demagogical and dictatorial” government.

The barb was a surprise outburst from the former president, who has kept a relatively low profile since his term ended in December, but was a reminder of how far relations have soured between Venezuela and Mexico in the last couple of years.

The countries recalled their ambassadors after sparring in late 2005 in which Chavez called Fox a “lap dog” of the United States.

No Fox spokesman was immediately available to confirm that he had made the comments.

Fox’s successor, Felipe Calderon, criticized Chavez’s leftist policies at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, and the Venezuelan former paratrooper bit back, calling Calderon a “little gentleman” on Venezuelan television.

Both Fox and Calderon are conservatives from the pro-business National Action Party and have healthy relations with Washington, the target of regular insults by Chavez, a self-styled leftist revolutionary.

Calderon said during his election campaign last year that he would like Mexico to play a more active role in Latin America to counter Chavez’s regional influence, but he also said he hoped to repair frosty relations.

The former leader said on stepping down that he was retiring to his ranch and leaving politics behind, but has since given a number of speeches on his time in government, mainly outside Mexico.

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