August 18, 2006

Chavez pokes fun at new US spy chief for Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez poked fun on Friday at the freshly appointed chief of
U.S. spy operations on Venezuela and Cuba, Jack Patrick Maher,
calling him "Jack the Ripper."

During a speech to hundreds of screaming supporters in his
home province of Barinas, Chavez, who is running for
re-election in December, was handed a CNN report saying Maher
had been appointed to head U.S. efforts to collect intelligence
on the two Latin American countries.

Chavez, a constant critic of Washington who says socialism
can unite South America against U.S. "imperialist" influence,
said the appointment of Maher was a sign that "the empire is
organizing a plan for December or before December."

Chavez often accuses the United States of plotting to
overthrow him.

"Whatever that plan might be, we are going to defeat it!"
Chavez said.

When Chavez first read Maher's name from the CNN report, he
called him "Jack the Ripper," to laughter from his audience,
and said U.S. intelligence services are "stupid."

Chavez is a close ally of Fidel Castro, the ailing
80-year-old president of Cuba. The pair are accused by
Washington of seeking to destabilize the region.

Chavez presents his "Bolivarian revolution" -- named after
South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar and funded by
Venezuela's oil wealth -- as a model for regional solidarity.