Chávez’s rising profile and focus on his needy northern neighbors is no doubt getting under the skin of his nemesis President Bush, whom Chávez regularly refers to as “Mr. Danger.” The Bush administration has always been suspicious of Chávez, who is tight with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and in 2000 became the first democratically elected head of state to visit Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. Washington’s barely concealed glee when a coup briefly deposed Chávez three years ago certainly didn’t help. After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fingered Chávez as a “negative force” in Latin America during her confirmation hearings, the Venezuelan retorted that “the most negative force in the world today is the government of the United States.”

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