Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, shadowing his political foil U.S. President George W. Bush on a tour of Western Hemisphere nations, said Bush represents the "most cynical, most murderous empire in all of history" but insisted he had nothing personal against him.
"It's not Chavez against Bush or Bush against Chavez," the Venezuelan leader said late Monday in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince at the close of a five-nation tour of Latin American and Caribbean nations.
"If this were personal it would have been over a long time ago. But you all know this isn't personal," Chavez said. "The president of the United States is the representative of the cruelest, most terrible, most cynical, most murderous empire that has existed in all of history."
Chavez, speaking at a news conference with Haitian President Rene Preval and Cuban Vice President Esteban Lazo, said Bush "represents the imperial plan of domination and colonialism. We represent ... the Bolivarian plan for the liberation of our people."
Preval, whose impoverished nation receives more aid from the U.S. than any country, gave no comment or reaction to Chavez's remarks.
Chavez, who left Nicaragua earlier Monday as crowds greeted Bush in Guatemala, arrived in Haiti to a rousing welcome by tens of thousands of cheering supporters who lined dusty streets and stood atop crumbling shanty dwellings. Many waved Venezuelan flags, while some chanted, "Down with Bush, long live Chavez!"
Many of those cheering on Chavez were supporters of Haiti's ousted former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was toppled in a bloody 2004 revolt and now lives in exile in South Africa. Aristide, a former priest and champion of the poor masses, accuses the United States of knocking him from power in a coup - a charge Washington denies, the AP reports.
During a stop at the Venezuelan Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Chavez said the welcome to Haiti provoked "indescribable feelings."
"We should begin preparing for ourselves ... to strengthen the unity" between the two countries, he said to Preval. "This is a heroic people, the Haitian people. So heroic but so downtrodden."
Chavez, who flew home later Monday, also laid a wreath at a statue of Simon Bolivar, the South American independence hero and inspiration for his "Bolivarian Revolution," in a park in front of the embassy.
The leftist firebrand stopped earlier Monday for a seven-hour visit in Jamaica, where he called for the Caribbean to support his Alternative for the Americas, a pact designed to counter Washington's proposed free trade deals.
"We've invited and keep inviting the nations of the Caribbean, in this case Jamaica," he said. "Only truly united can we be free, sovereign, really independent."
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Chavez also signed a deal under which the South American country will supply Jamaica with liquefied natural gas starting in 2009, said Philip Paulwell, the energy minister for Jamaica.
The agreement comes three weeks after Trinidad's Prime Minister Patrick Manning said his country could not supply Jamaica with 1.1 million metric tons of the gas it needs.
Haiti, like Jamaica, benefits from Petrocaribe - a Venezuelan initiative to purchase oil under preferential terms. The program, widely seen as an effort by Chavez to make inroads in a region where the United States is a major trading partner, allows deferred payment and long-term financing for fuel shipments.
Chavez said Venezuela would double Haiti's oil shipments from 7,000 to 14,000 barrels of oil per day under Petrocaribe, an increase that should help soften a crippling energy crunch that keeps much of the former French colony without electricity.
Chavez also announced a US$3 million (EUR 2.28 million) grant to help clean up Haiti's chaotic capital, and pledged more support for tourism, agriculture and healthcare.
Preval, a Chavez ally, also relies heavily on U.S. aid. The United States, Haiti's largest donor, last year pledged a US$492 million (EUR 388 million) aid package aimed at helping the country recover from the devastating 2004 uprising.
After meeting with Chavez and Cuba's Lazo, Preval said the three countries agreed to create a "trilateral cooperation" accord to help boost Haiti's living standards by funding projects in education, electrification and other areas.
"Haiti is going to look to Cuba and Venezuela for what it needs," Preval said, calling the three nations "brother countries."
Chavez called the pact a "strong step toward ... the Bolivarian Alternative for our people" and said ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro joined in the talks from Havana.
"He also participated in the meeting by telephone," Chavez said of his close friend Castro.
Chavez appears intent on spoiling Bush's tour. He is haunting Bush, a man he sees as his ideological nemesis, vowing to revive a global socialist opposition to the United States.
On Friday, Chavez held a stadium rally in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires and then headed to Bolivia's flood-ravaged lowlands on Saturday to tout his pledge of US$15 million (EUR 11 million) in disaster aid - 10 times that sent by the United States. In Nicaragua, he told Bush: "Gringo, go home."
Bush arrived in Mexico Monday night after having visited Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Guatemala.