Monday, August 9, 2010

Hugo Chavez rejects US ambassador-designate to venezuela

President Hugo Chavez on Sunday rejected Larry Palmer as the US ambassador-designate to Venezuela, and urged US President Barack Obama to "look for another candidate."

"How can you think I'd accept this gentleman coming here? You'd best withdraw him, Obama. Don't insist, I'm asking you," said Chavez in his weekly "Alo Presidente" radio and television show.

Palmer recently voiced concern about Cuba's growing influence in the Venezuelan military, which, he said was "considerably low" in morale and professionalism.

In written answers to a US lawmaker's questions -- his nomination as ambassador must be confirmed by the Senate -- Palmer also said there were "clear ties" between leftist Colombian guerrillas and Chavez's government.

Venezuela's foreign ministry on Thursday protested Palmer's statements as "interference and interventionism" and asked the United States for an explanation before he was confirmed in his post.

Palmer "can't come here as ambassador," said Chavez. "He disqualified himself by breaking all the rules of diplomacy. He messed with all of us. He can't come here."

"The best thing the United States government can do is to look for another candidate," for ambassador to Venezuela, he added.

The US government has said it shares Palmer's concerns about Venezuela, but denied it was interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs.

In its annual report on terrorism, the US State Department on Thursday said anti-terrorist cooperation with Venezuela had dropped to a minimum and that Venezuela's alleged support to Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas was still uncertain.

Palmer, in his written response, offered the most detailed explanation yet of Washington's view of the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela, an issue that Bogota and Caracas have been quarreling over.

He said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) "maintain camps in Venezuela, and members of the FARC high command have occasionally appeared in public in Caracas."

"The Venezuelan government has been unwilling to prevent Colombian guerrillas from entering and establishing camps in Venezuelan territory," Palmer added.

Chavez on July 22 broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia and reinforced its military presence at the border.

Since the inauguration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday, however, both countries have made overtures and said they are prepared to talk to resume normal relations.

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