Chavez Calls Bush 'The Devil'

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez acknowledges members of the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his verbal battle with the United States to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, calling U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" and denouncing what he said was U.S. imperialism.

The impassioned speech by Chavez, a leftist and one of Mr. Bush's staunchest critics, came a day after the U.S. president and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparred over Tehran's disputed nuclear program but managed to avoid a personal encounter.

"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, referring to Mr. Bush's address on Tuesday and making the sign of the cross. "He came here talking as if he were the owner of the world."

The leftist leader, who has joined Iran and Cuba in opposing U.S. influence, accused Washington of "domination, exploitation and pillage of peoples of the world."

"We appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our head," he said.

Wednesday marked the first time a U.S. President has ever been attacked on the floor of the United Nations. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened the West in 1960, but he didn't personally attack President Eisenhower, reports CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts.

"Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is rapidly becoming the new Fidel Castro, but with petro-dollars, at the U.N.," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, "and as a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in October, his anti-Bush comments are making him increasingly popular with member states in his campaign for that position."

Chavez's diatribe reflected the difficulty Mr. Bush faces in his key mission at the U.N. — convincing a largely skeptical world audience that his administration's fight against terrorism was not one targeting Muslims.

The main U.S. seat in the assembly hall was empty as Chavez spoke. But there was a "junior note taker" there, as is customary "when governments like that speak," the U.S. ambassador to the U.N said.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.