Venezuela Slams Obama over 'Vile' Chavez Remarks

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Venezuela warned Friday that remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama describing the policies of ailing President Hugo Chavez as "authoritarian" could seriously harm already strained bilateral relations.

Caracas "strongly rejects the outrageous remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama regarding President Hugo Chavez and Venezuela," said Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas, reading a statement from the Miraflores presidential residence.

"With his vile remarks in such a delicate moment for Venezuela, the U.S. president takes responsibility for taking bilateral relations towards a major deterioration," he said, adding that the remarks demonstrate a "continuity of his policy of aggression and disrespect towards our country."

Chavez is recovering in Cuba, where he made an emergency trip earlier this week for cancer surgery, raising questions about his future.

Chavez flew to Havana for surgery on Monday after revealing that his recurring cancer had returned again just two months after his triumphant re-election to a new six-year term.

In an interview with the Univision U.S. television channel, Obama refused to speculate on Chavez's medical condition, but said the future of Venezuela "should be in the hands of the Venezuelan people."

"We've seen from Chavez in the past authoritarian policies, suppression of dissent," Obama said.

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