Chavez Criticism Increases, Although Some in City Support Venezuelan

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The New York Sun

A number of New York’s elected officials piled on President Chavez yesterday, condemning his criticism of President Bush as out-of-line and extreme.

Governor Pataki, a Republican, called the Venezuelan leader a “barbarian” who “denies freedoms in his own country.”

The governor’s response came after a day after Mr. Chavez called Mr. Bush “the devil” during a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, and hours after Mr. Chavez said the president was an “an alcoholic and a sick man.”

“He doesn’t belong here, he doesn’t belong in New York, he doesn’t belong in America,” said Mr. Pataki during a news conference at the World Trade Center site yesterday. “I would hope that everyone of every political stripe whether or not they support the President’s policies will stand together and denounce this barbarian.”

Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat who is a regular critic of Mr. Bush’s, said Mr. Chavez’s speech was an attack on the entire nation.

“Don’t come to the United States and think, because we have problems with our president, that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state,” he said.

New Yorkers had mixed reactions to the Venezuelan leader. A Manhattan real estate agent, Nadine Tusk, said she was offended by Mr. Chavez’s characterization of Mr. Bush.

“I don’t like the president, but that language offends me,” Ms. Tusk said. “The U.N. is supposed to be a place where diplomacy reigns.”

A 30-year-old salesman of Colombian decent who lives in Queens, Ralph Filion, said he admired Mr. Chavez.

“Chavez has always been a great leader to me,” Mr. Filion said. “He speaks the truth. He helps his people with more than just trying to get riches and fame. I don’t see President Bush doing that.”

Some, like Felicia Jackson, said they supported Mr. Chavez’s right to express his criticisms.

“I think that’s what the U.N. is for,” the 43-year-old dancer said. “It’s so you can be open with your opinions and fight your battles there and not by dropping bombs on people.”

In Washington Square Park, Brad Waslenko said the situation reminded him of a spat among teenagers.

“Yes, it’s a world stage and you want to get your message across, but you could do it better,” said Mr. Waslenko, an aspiring actor who was wearing a T-shirt with the words “The Power of Nice.”

“You’re not running for high school treasurer against your best friend who just stole your girlfriend,” he said.

While some criticized Mr. Chavez’s methods, they praised his charge that Mr. Bush was “the spokesman for imperialism” and talked “as if he owned the world.”

A 22-year-old Rutgers University business student, Clarre Gelle, who was outside the American Museum of Natural History yesterday, said she did not have a problem with the comments.

“I’m French: We don’t have many good things to say about President Bush,” she said. “The way Bush has acted in the past few years didn’t show much respect to the U.N.”

The New York Sun

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