President Hugo Chavez called a cardinal from Honduras an "imperialist clown" after the Roman Catholic prelate warned of increasing authoritarianism under the Venezuelan leader.
Chavez — a close ally of Cuba‘s Fidel Castro — was responding to criticism from Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, who said in a recent interview cited by Venezuela‘s Bolivarian News Agency that Chavez "thinks he‘s God and can trample upon other people."
Catholic leaders in this South American country have warned of alleged threats to individual freedoms under Chavez‘s administration and criticized his plans for a sweeping constitutional reform to transform Venezuela into a socialist state.
Rodriguez Maradiaga, considered a moderate, is one of the most prominent Catholic leaders in the Americas and has often been mentioned as a possible pope.
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