CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched yet another verbal assault against President Bush upon returning from a highly charged U.S. visit Friday, calling on the American leader to resign.

Chavez suggested that New York city police were behind a electrical disruption during his speech in Harlem, but police denied the allegation.

“He should renounce the presidency if he has any dignity. The president of the United States has failed completely,” Chavez said at the inauguration of a natural gas project in northwestern Venezuela.

It was Chavez’s first appearance since returning from the United States, where he called Bush “the devil” at the United Nations’ General Assembly and later criticized him in a speech to supporters at a church in Harlem.

The comments coming near U.S. legislative elections have drawn condemnation even from some of Bush’s critics.

Bush’s political foes and fans alike condemned the remarks, U.S. newspapers criticized the Venezuelan leader, and one governor said his state is no longer interested in buying discounted oil from Venezuela-owned Citgo this winter.

In Boston, a city councilor said he wants to take down a Citgo sign near the city’s famed baseball park and replace it with an American flag.

“Given the hatred of the United States displayed by dictator Hugo Chavez, it would be more fitting to see an American flag when you drive through Kenmore Square,” councilor Jerry McDermott told The Boston Herald, saying the sign – prominently visible over the left-field wall at Fenway Park – had to go.

On Friday, The New York Daily News’ headline told Chavez to “ZIP IT!” and the New York Post called him a “jerk” and “Caracas crackpot.”

“I wanted President Chavez to please understand that even though many people in the United States are critical of our president that we resent the fact that he would come to the United States and criticize President Bush,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY., said Thursday.

Chavez appeared unfazed by the outcry.

“The imperialist government of the United States says we have failed but they are the ones that have failed in everything you see,” he said Friday.

He accused the Bush administration of fueling terrorism, claimed that both the CIA and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were “infiltrated” by drug traffickers, and urged people to divest their dollars because new bills were being “fabricated.”

The Venezuelan leader also accused the New York city police of deliberately cutting off the power supply to disrupt his speech at Harlem’s Mount Olivet Baptist Church, when a live transmission of the event by Venezuela’s state TV station was interrupted for a few minutes.

“Contrary to his assertions, the New York Police Department did not in any way interfere with efforts to transmit information from New York,” Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said in a statement distributed by the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela.

Venezuelan Information Minister Willian Lara had initially accused the CIA of being behind the disruption, but Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez later said New York police officers were responsible.

Insults have increasingly flown between Caracas and Washington since 2002, when the U.S. swiftly recognized leaders who briefly ousted Chavez in a coup, before Chavez returned to power amid massive street protests.

U.S. officials regularly call the Venezuelan leader a destabilizing force, and Bush has said he sees Chavez as a threat to democracy. Chavez has called Bush a “devil” in the past.

AP-ES-09-22-06 2037EDT


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