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Sheehan, Chavez join to bash Bush, Iraq war

Venezuela’s left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, joined U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan Sunday to attack President Bush and the Iraq war at the close of the World Social Forum.
U.S. activist Cindy Sheehan meets Venezuelan President Chavez during his weekly broadcast  'Alo Presidente'
U.S. activist Cindy Sheehan, left, meets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his weekly broadcast 'Alo Presidente' in Caracas on Sunday.Miraflores Palace via Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Cindy Sheehan, who gained international fame when she camped outside President Bush’s ranch in an anti-war protest, plans to pitch her tent again, Venezuela’s president said Sunday as he urged activists worldwide to help bring down “the U.S. empire.”

Hugo Chavez, an arm around Sheehan’s shoulders, told a group of activists that she had told him “she is going to put up her tent again in front of Mr. Danger’s ranch” in April.

In some of his strongest recent comments aimed at Washington, Chavez condemned the Bush administration and said his audience should work toward ending U.S. dominance.

“Enough already with the imperialist aggression!” Chavez said, listing countries from Panama to Iraq where the U.S. military has intervened. “Down with the U.S. empire! It must be said, in the entire world: Down with the empire!”

Chavez said Sheehan had invited him to join her April protest at Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch. Sheehan, whose 24-year-old soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, held a vigil outside Bush’s ranch during the president’s vacation in August, attracting some 12,000 peace activists and reinvigorating the national anti-war movement.

“Maybe I’ll put up my tent also,” Chavez said, to applause from an audience invited to his weekly broadcast on the final day of the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of anti-war and anti-globalization activists.

Chavez said his government would help protest the war in Iraq by supporting a drive to gather petitions and delivering them to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Chavez, who before the war in Iraq had friendly relations with Saddam Hussein, has been a frequent and strident critic of the war.

Sheehan thanked Chavez for “supporting life and peace.” She said earlier that she was impressed by his sincerity when they met privately on Saturday.

“He said, ’Why don’t I run for president?”’ she said. “I just laughed.”

Sheehan also noted that singer and activist Harry Belafonte recently called Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world,” and said, “I agree with him. George Bush is responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people.”

Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., said Saturday that she is strongly considering challenging Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California because the lawmaker will not support calls to immediately bring the troops home.

Sheehan, 48, who was visiting Venezuela for the six-day forum, said running in the Democratic primary in June would help “bring attention to all the peace candidates in the country.” She said she will decide whether to run after talking with her three adult children in California.

Feinstein’s campaign manager, Kam Kuwata, said the senator did not support Bush and felt she had been misled by his administration. But with troops committed, Feinstein believes immediate withdrawal is unworkable, he said.

“Senator Feinstein’s position is, ’Let’s work toward quickly turning over the defense of Iraq to Iraqis so that we can bring the troops home as soon as possible,”’ Kuwata said in an interview Saturday.

Also joining Chavez on Sunday was Elma Beatriz Rosado, the widow of slain Puerto Rican nationalist Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Holding back tears as she stood at Chavez’s side, Rosado accused the United States of killing her husband, a 72-year-old militant independence activist.

Rios was slain in a September FBI raid on a Puerto Rican farmhouse where he was living in hiding while being wanted for the 1983 robbery of $7.2 million from a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in Connecticut — funds intended for the independence cause.

“They murdered him,” Chavez said. “Viva Filiberto!... Let’s follow his example.”